Generation Z is the first generation to be digital natives and is already well-versed in VR technology. They have never lived in a world without smartphones or fast Internet and only the elderly can recall what it was like before social media.
It's not surprising that Gen Zers are more likely to report having mental health problems than older generations. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 27 percent of Gen Zers rated their mental health as either "fair" or poor, compared to just 15 percent of millennials and 13 percent for Gen Xers. Gen Zers attribute their mental health problems to real-world stressors like mass shootings or sexual assaults, which disproportionately affect younger generations.
Gen Z, like every generation before it holds the future in its hand. Gen Zers' health and well-being will be a benefit to all of humanity. It's our responsibility to ensure Gen Z addresses the real mental health issues its members face.
Many solutions will be required to address these challenges. One promising solution is found in a type technology that Gen Zers eagerly adopt: virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality. Let's look at the reasons why Gen Zers are able to use VR technology to improve their mental health today, tomorrow and beyond.
1. They Are Eager to Adopt VR and AR
In 2016, nearly half of Gen Z had used VR and AR technology. 12% also used it daily, according to Inc. Industry watchers anticipate that 60 million VR headsets and AR headsets will ship by 2021. This is an increase from the 10 million shipped in 2016. A large proportion of early adopters are younger consumers.
2. They are self-starters
Inc's analysis found that Gen Zers are more inclined to create their own content and experiences. This is one of the advantages of VR. It's a flexible and immersive medium that lets users explore on their terms. It also enables VR wellness solution Healium "anxiety management." A Frontiers in Psychology research that examined Healium showed a significant decrease in stress after only four minutes of VR therapy.
3. They are more willing to acknowledge, talk about, and seek help for mental health issues
Gen Zers are more likely than older generations to seek treatment for mental health issues. According to an American Psychological Association study Gen Zers (37%) sought treatment for mental health issues at a rate nearly twice that of Boomers (22%), and three times that of older generations (15%).
Gen Zers seem more open to seeking help. It's reasonable to assume that they are more open to non-standard therapies like VR and AR. Gen Z could be the cultural trend-setter and tastemaker as they embrace these therapies.
4. They are more exposed to real-world stressors
Generation Z members cite real-world stressors that are contributing to their mental health problems. They cited several trends and negative events that have been difficult to ignore in recent times, including mass shootings at schools and gathering places attended by young people, sexual harassment that targets younger individuals, climate change, and the suicide epidemic.
These and other real-world crises are more accessible to Gen Z than ever before. Because they are younger, they will be able to cope with these crises for longer than their elder peers. They are more inclined to empathy than other world-weary generations. Early research has shown that targeted VR therapy can improve this condition.
5. They seek high-emotional and social experiences
Gen Z, even though they are comfortable living in their own digital bubbles, is still a social generation. Gen Z members are open to sharing high-emotion, collective experiences whenever possible. Yulio, a VR software manufacturer, notes that this is an excellent use case to support VR-based wellness programs that use technology in order to create authentic and immersive experiences and improve mood while also increasing productivity.
6. Social validation is a key motivator
Yulio explains another consequence of Gen Z’s social predispositions, the importance of social validation. Their social validation is in their relationship with technology and brands. Social validation is often the most crucial factor for Gen Zers, who are skeptical about mass marketing and traditional branding. Social validation is a key factor in deciding whether to adopt or reject a product, service, and tech.
VR, being fundamentally a social technology, is an ideal match for this bias. The average Gen Zer will tell their friends about a positive experience with VR wellness therapy. This is, however, only if their friends aren't already participating in VR-based wellness therapy. The implications of VR therapy and VR can be analyzed by the advocates on their own.
7. The Pandemic has had a profound impact on their behavior
We must also acknowledge the elephant in our room, the pandemic. It could be difficult to break the habits you developed during the pandemic. One is the acceptance by younger people of virtual or remote social experiences. These experiences are compatible with VR technology and the wider acceptance of telehealth/tele-wellness. The future might make it as simple as putting on a headset to schedule a therapy appointment.
The Benefits of AR/VR for Gen Z are Just Beginning
Virtual reality isn't a new technology. Virtual reality has been around in one form or another for over 30 years. It has been a great technology, along with augmented reality, which is a more recent tech, in the last 10 years. It is almost certain that it will improve in the next 10 years in ways that we cannot even imagine.
We are just beginning to understand its potential to enhance mental well-being. We can expect more positive news to come out of its potential. Not only can VR benefit Gen Zers but also anyone who is open to trying out a new way of managing their mental health.