Vulnerability and Resilience in the Younger Generations2024-02-26

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

We are currently experiencing a pandemic of mental health issues and suicides in the younger generations. The older generations are baffled and worried about their children and grandchildren. Objectively, material life is safer, more prosperous, more interesting than in past decades or centuries. Yet young people seem more vulnerable despite this external progress. Challenges are relative to the resilience of the person, not to the absolute magnitude of the challenge. Less sleep, less natural food, less exercise all take a toll on brain and body. Many little stressors cumulatively put them close to the edge, or over it. The onslaught of change and stressors seem permanent to them as they are the most digitally plugged in and exposed of all generations to date. What matters to them is the battle inside.

These problems also point to the solutions. Daily exercise, ideally outdoors in nature, should be routine in any household, school, or University. Junk food should be regulated and labeled as cigarettes are, and not sold to under 21 years old. Phone carriers should be mandated to disable access to the internet and turn phones into just phones between 9 pm and 9 am for those under 21 years old. A strong ethos of multigenerational family connection and social volunteering will make the young more grounded. These are all simple measures with big impact. No technical barrier to actually implementing them exists. What it does take is responsible societal governance, for the sake of the next generations.

Mental health is not much of a stigma anymore, and we are doing our bit to improve that. But it takes all of us to make life better for the young, and for their future to seem, and be, bright.