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Mental health and well-being across the ages

How different generations are prioritizing their mental health in 2023

Only first names were used to protect the privacy of our respondents.

“When I was younger, I took my mental health for granted. I always told myself I was ‘fine’ and just pushed pain, trauma or disappointment down deep and kept moving, but I’ve learned that’s only a temporary solution. All the stuff we squash down rules and drives us in ways we don’t control.”

That frank assessment of their own mental health comes from Lauren, a public policy professional and member of Generation X, the collective of people born between the late 1960s and early 1980s. Gen X has been dubbed the “forgotten generation” but one thing Lauren and her peers might be remembered for, however, is their role in the positive cultural shift that is prioritizing mental health care.

“Mental health is very important to me at this stage in my life because I want to be the one driving the bus, not the broken pieces I’ve tried to ignore.”

Lauren and the Gen Xers are not alone. A recent Forbes Health survey showed that mental health improvement was the top New Year’s resolution for 2023, with 45 percent of respondents focused on prioritizing mental wellness above other traditional new year aspirations. This is true across generational lines as well, with 50 percent of Gen Zers, 49 percent of millennials and 39 percent of Gen Xers looking to put their mental well-being first. 

As the stigma around mental health slowly subsides, more Americans of all ages are speaking out about the ways they’re working to improve their mental health in 2023 and beyond.


Mental health and Generation Z (Born 1997-2012)

According to a recent survey by McKinsey, Generation Z is one of the most open age groups when it comes to discussing and seeking ways to improve their mental health. This same report signals that Gen Z is more likely to seek out a holistic approach to their health — physical, behavioral, and social — and Gen Zer Beck fits that characterization.

“I consider mental health to be integrated with physical health. Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health are all part of our overall well-being as humans.” 

Gen. Z girl painting in large sparse studio.

Her New Year’s resolution for 2023 will help her actively focus on promoting and protecting her mental health through a series of proactive decisions and activities that help her balance the stresses of work and life as a twenty-something. Beck exercises regularly, practices painting and writing, works with a therapist, and has even created her own scale that helps her take stock of her own mental state. These tools have given her a clear picture of what she wants for her own mental health.

“Being mentally well means that you are able to experience a broad range of emotions and situations without them causing a large negative impact. If people have any type of mental illness or experience high stress, they are able to treat it so that they can not just survive but thrive.” 

Mental health and millennials (Born 1981-1996)

Millennials are characterized as tech-savvy, collaborative, and transparent. Ryan, a commercial credit analyst, embodies those characteristics in how he approaches and discusses his mental health. 

“To me, mental health is just as important, if not more important than physical health. I believe being in a healthy mindset is the catalyst to living a fulfilled life.”

Man in his twenties stretching his arms before running on a road around a mountain.

To achieve that healthy mindset, Ryan incorporates several activities into his regimen, including lifting weights, running, shooting hoops and even listening to TED Talks. Through these activities, he has found a way to balance the stresses of life — like getting a new puppy and getting married, both of which he is doing this year — to ensure he stays focused on his mental health.

“I have made a goal to make sure I only worry about what I can control. Outside of that, I will continue my regular healthy mental habits routinely.”

Mental health and Generation X (Born 1965-1980)

“To me, being emotionally well means being resilient and having the tools to weather the storms that life ultimately throws at us.” 

Lauren knows that mental health care is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but she has found the right combination of remedies that help her put her best mental “foot” forward in 2023. Through exercise, therapy, mindfulness practice, and improved work/life balance, she has been able to carve out a routine that aligns with her goals for mental wellness.

“I give myself permission to rest and relax without guilt. I say no to reserve my energy and effort for the things I’m uniquely suited to do or change and say yes when there’s opportunity for new experiences or to meet new people and expand my horizons.”


Mental health and baby boomers (Born 1946-1964)

A woman sitting on a couch speaks to her therapist, who listens holding a clipboard ad pen.

Research has shown that baby boomers are characteristically skeptical of mental health and mental health treatment, but that seems to be shifting in the current cultural climate. Beth, a special education case manager, is open about her past struggles with mental health issues and the steps she takes today to stay healthy.

I have been mentally unhealthy, and I now know the difference. Each day I notice how I am feeling, and if I feel anything that reminds me of the stages of depression, I take stock and practice things I learned in therapy. More importantly, I know I don’t have to live mentally unhealthily any more than I need to live with a physical issue.” 

Like the millennial and Gen X participants we surveyed, Beth also finds benefits in getting outdoors, meditation and practicing hobbies that spark joy. These routines create structure and help her find peace of mind in this stage of life.

“To me, ‘mental health’ and being mentally healthy mean living without persistent doubts, fears or dark moments. Staying busy, being grateful and knowing what makes me happy are the foundation of my mental health.”

Mental health and the silent generation (Born 1928-1945)

“As you age, mental health becomes more and more important because it is so closely associated with your physical health. A senior’s health is primarily defined by their mental health.”

Patricia is a retired social worker and member of the silent generation, the group of Americans who came of age during some of the most impactful moments in history — the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement and more. While any of these events would be enough to put a burden on someone’s mental health, many in the silent generation have remained largely that, silent, when it comes to mental health. 

Elderly woman in a swimming pool lifts her goggles and smiles into the distance.

For Patricia, though, mental health is “a daily topic of conversation with friends and family,” and she jokes that at her age not losing any mental faculties is always the goal. Through activities in her community such as a book club, exercise class as well as bridge and mahjong tournaments, Patricia is able to prioritize her mental wellness while also promoting her physical fitness.

Prioritizing your mental health in 2023

Whether it’s diet and exercise, talk therapy, mindfulness, establishing routines, or another practice that helps you, prioritizing mental health is on the minds of people of all ages in 2023. Through self-guided work or in collaboration with a medical provider, it’s all about finding a solution that works for you.

As Gen Xer Lauren has discovered through years of mental wellness work and exploration, “The best we can do is strengthen our response to the unexpected. Mental health is the pathway by which we achieve that strength, clarity of purpose, and peace of mind.” 

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This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's Studio/B in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.