Pandemic, Unemployment Boost Resentment Against Older Generations: 'Why Should We Protect You?'

Young people across the world are increasingly frustrated with older generations amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing a lack of opportunity, a poor economy and restrictions made worse by the same old people they are intended to protect.

More than 800 people between the ages of 16 and 30 expressed their feelings about ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and their growing resentment against older generations who, they say, have failed to be leaders in nearly every country. The Financial Times survey published Tuesday revealed scores of young people are frustrated and angry over student loan debts, pandemic restrictions and the highest-ever recorded rates of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents. The survey shows how the brunt of anxiety from low wages and unemployment is felt by young people, while a seemingly uncaring elder generation reaps the benefits of their efforts and youth.

On top of the economic pain, many young respondents said "misguided" people over 40 are often the ones defying public health guidelines and worsening the pandemic.

"We are not in this together, millennials have to take the brunt of the sacrifice in the situation," said Polina R., 30, from Montreal, Canada. "If you won't watch out that we don't end up jobless and poorer, why should we protect you?"

The FT survey authors wrote that "these difficulties are translating into growing resentment towards older generations, which are both better off and holding greater political sway." Feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, anger and even considerations of suicide dominated many of the survey responses. "We are all being blamed for a crisis in leadership," a 23-year-old French man lamented.

Respondents in the United States, Europe and South Asia said older people are adding insult to injury by not embracing public health regulations. But many people in their mid-twenties said they are fighting back by not following social distancing recommendations. "The [older] people in power have no skin in the game. I refuse to stop enjoying life when no one has a plan," one Montreal woman said.

"I was very strict when living at home with my older parents, said American Mary Finnegan, 23. "Now, after becoming an alcoholic nun for six months, I will risk COVID for a chance to go on a date again."

People under age 25 are 2.5 times more likely to have lost their job as a result of the pandemic versus people between the ages of 26 to 64, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). And as Newsweek reported in October, U.S. Baby Boomers currently control 10 times more wealth than millennials despite those young people making up the overwhelming majority of the workforce.

The coronavirus pandemic has also intensified disenchantment with political institutions, the survey found. Millennials and Generation Z are for more likely than older people to say their countries are "out of control" right now. Trust in government has hit all-time lows in most developed countries, the authors note.

A study conducted by the United Kingdom–based Mental Health Foundation and the University of Cambridge warned that the mental health impact of the pandemic are sure to outlast the virus itself. Depression, isolation and anxiety issues that were already simmering in societies across the world have worsened in 2020. U.K. and U.S. participants between the ages of 18-29 are experiencing far higher levels of distress compared to older generations.

"Unemployment, mental health difficulties, and uncertainty about when this will all end make for a pretty despairing outlook," James, 30, from London, told FT. "At one point I was considering suicide."

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Students attend class on September 9 at the University of Las Vegas. Among young people across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment have boosted resentment against older generations, according to a new survey. ETHAN MILLER/Getty Images