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Millennials And Gen Z Are Perfectionists, Resulting In Depression

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Millennials and kids of Generation Z have become more obsessed with perfection that ever compared to previous generations, leading to an increase in depression and anxiety, a new study suggests.

Researchers reviewed previous studies on perfectionism, which was broadly defined as “a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations,” Yahoo News reports. They also conducted a separate study on 41,641 American, Canadian, and British college students from 1989 and 2016 and discovered that perfectionism has increased over time.

The phenomenon is at its worst in the United States, the research states. Dubbed a cultural phenomenon, the study says this has multiple factors involved, such as self-oriented perfectionism. This is the pressure a person puts on his or herself to be perfect. There is also socially prescribed perfectionism, which is the pressure a person feels from society, and other-oriented perfectionism, or the pressure people put on others.

There are three reasons for this sudden trend in perfectionism, the research says: the rise of neoliberalism, increasingly anxious and controlling parents, and the increasing power of meritocracy.

According to the study, “[N]eoliberalism and its doctrine of meritocracy have combined to shape a culture in which everybody is expected to perfect themselves and their lifestyles, by striving to meet unrealistic achievement standards.” It adds,

For parents, this new culture confers an additional burden. On top of their own duty to succeed, they are also responsible for the successes and failures of their children.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in family and relationship issues, points to one glaring factor: social media, saying, “These people grew up being constantly evaluated on social media.”

Striving to be perfect all the time can lead to increased depression and anxiety. The study authors observe that, “Research among college students and young people, for example, has found self-oriented perfectionism to be positively associated with clinical depression, anorexia nervosa, and early death.”

Greenberg adds, “When self-consciousness and perfectionism increase, anxiety and depression increase as well. They go hand in hand.”

The study was published in Psychological Bulletin.

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