Social Trend Quarter Life Crisis among Young Adult Professionals

The term ‘quarter-life crisis’ was first coined by a Canadian psychologist , Elliott Jaques in the mid 1960s and refers to those in their twenties who are managing the transition from adolescence to adulthood.  It is a period when they are becoming independent from their family and entering into the world of work with its associated stresses.  Great adjustment is required to cope with the latest in a long line of major life changes.

This crisis is characterized by great feelings of insecurity, often around self worth, what the future holds, how well they are performing at work, how they are coping in the work environment and finances.  This can lead to a hankering for the familiar past life they are leaving behind, particularly if they excelled at college and enjoyed that environment.  Boredom and frustration at not being top of the class in their new work environment add to the stresses.

This is not a new phenomenon, but it has caught the public’s attention in recent times.  Whether this is due to a growing interest in our development or an acknowledgement that life has become more stressful in the twenty first century, is difficult to say.  By examining the factors that contribute to the stresses and challenges faced by today’s young generation, we may find some answers.

a)     Commercialisation and globalisation.  Towards the end of the twentieth century and through the first decade of the twenty first, life has become more commercialised and with the rise in global business, this has been across most of the globe.  This puts pressure on all employees and businessmen to perform at optimum levels all of the time.  This may mean concentrating on quantity rather than quality when performing at work.  All through school and college, we are pushed to achieve the best we can and entering an environment which turns that on its head and strives for minimum effort for maximum output is quite a culture change and one which will not sit easily with young professionals.

b)     Pace.  Every generation has complained that the pace of life has increased from the pace the previous generation had known.  There is now though recognition that this has happened at an unprecedented rate over the last fifteen years or so.  Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the fact that business never sleeps.  The globalisation of business has led to a twenty four world, which makes it hard to escape the commercialisation of our world.  This increased pace of life brings with it enormous pressure and anxieties which the young find a challenge to cope with.  There is no doubt that this level of constant stress adds significantly to the quarter-life crisis potential.

c)     Profit focus.  There is an increasing focus on all businesses, and more and more charities also, to maximise profit above all else.  Of course, profit is essential for the continuing health of the business, but other factors are also important.  The former paternal approach, where individuals’ needs were looked after, is largely a thing of the past.  People’s concerns, levels of fulfilment and happiness at work are only subject to lip service these days.  The view of most senior management is that if their staff are not happy, they can leave.  The pressure to perform with no thought of the individuals’ requirements leads to further stress and anxiety, again adding to the likelihood of a quarter-life crisis in young workers.

d)     Technological aids.  Technology continues to develop apace, bringing with it far more efficient ways of working.  Often menial, and increasingly more complex, processes can be mechanised or performed by some form of electronic device.  This results in the operatives needing far less skill than in the past.  They will now have a more routine and mind numbing role to perform.  This, in turn, increases the dissatisfaction people have with their work and is another contributing factor to quarter-life crisis.

e)     Media.  It is not only in the work forum that the young come under pressure.  In their private lives they are under much more pressure than ever to look a certain way and to fit the body image portrayed in the media.  The enormous jump in gym membership (not necessarily a bad thing) and cosmetic surgery (this is a bad thing) is testament to the level of pressure that the young have to conform.  A personal anxiety to add to the many professional stresses that they already face.

Our young people have to face many more stresses and pressures than previous generations, and these are beginning to take their toll on their lives.  They no longer have to wait to face their mortality at middle age before suffering some form of breakdown, their early twenties are pressured enough that they can do this earlier.