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New Research May Change the Way You View Millennials

What’s your perception of the millennial generation? That they’re lazy, entitled and unreliable? This set of stereotypes is just scratching the surface of the bad reputation that anyone in their twenties and early thirties is suffering through.

As a millennial myself, I always feel the need to defend my peers because I know the mainstream media has portrayed the wrong perception of this generation. And until now, I’ve only been able to argue that we are a self-sufficient, hardworking and a dedicated generation through a series of personal anecdotes.

But thanks to some recent research done by Happify, this generation’s true character has been cast, and it may change how you see millennials. The research team at Happify has been putting together studies that seek to better understand the current state of millennials’ psyche as they transition into the workforce.

A Negative State of Mind

In one study, the company found that people in their late twenties are in a relatively negative state of mind and experience a sharp increase of ongoing stress, characterized by the more negative thoughts and the least positive emotions, compared to other age groups. These findings also supported the prominence of the quarter-life crisis, also known as the awkward transition from adolescence to true adulthood.

After seeing the overwhelming negative state of mind in the millennial generation, Happify wanted to better understand: What is causing millennials so much angst? The research team found that the millennial generation is obsessed with their jobs and tend to socialize with their friends much less often than older generations assume.

Data was examined from over 250,000 Happify users and the more than 12 million words they wrote about the things they are grateful for and their short-and long-term goals in life. Using a “topic extraction algorithm”, the Happify research team extracted descriptive topics that characterize the data set, and each of these topics includes a set of common words and their frequency. Using this topic extraction, Happify was able to better understand what millennials are grateful for, and what their long and short-term goals are.

What are Millennials Thankful For?

In the study, Happify asked users to write down “three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful,” and were directed to think of a broad range of possibilities like, “something someone did for you, something you did for yourself, or just the simple fact that they sun is shining.”

The most common topics across all ages related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” But the topics millennials expressed most gratitude toward were vastly different. Millennials listed, “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed” as what they were most grateful for.

According to Happify’s Chief Data Science Officer, Ran Zilca, “Four out of these six topics were career related and had to do with the process of finding a job or with daily work experiences, and the remaining two topics were related to time spent in bed. Since the gratitude question specifically asked about things that happened today or yesterday, we can fairly confidently say that the unique things characterizing positive millennial experiences take place at work or in bed.”

Not what you were expecting to hear from a millennial? Well the career-themed thought process continues when Happify looked at the generation’s short and long term goals.

What are a Millennials Long-Term Goals?

To better understand the long-term goals of millennials, Happify looked at how users responded to the following question: “Set a very long-term goal-on that can be completed in the span of several years.” This could be going back to school, a career change or a project, like writing a memoir.

The most popular responses included bettering their work/life balance, reducing stress in their lives, stop worrying so much and achieving fitness goals. While millennials were the most likely to mention specific wellness goals, whether physical or mental, they were also most likely to mention work and jobs in their long term goals (finding a better job with better benefits, more pay and better hours).

How about Short-Term Goals?

When it came down to the short-term goals, Happify asked users to specify goals for the week the advanced them toward their long-term goals. The research team found that the most common topics were related to doing work tasks, doing things that were challenging and being able to be happy even in the face of discouragements. More specifically, the four most common topics mentioned were, “do things from my to-do list,” “apply for a job,” “get out of my comfort zone” and “stop worrying.”

According to Zilca, “This suggests millennials are stressed and worried (and aware of it), and are occupied with getting a great job and going about in a way that is conscientious and organized, unafraid of pushing the envelope and facing challenges. Looking at both long-term and short-term goals, we see a clear focus and an attempt to address worry and stress.”

What’s the Missing Ingredient?

Self-improvement seems to be the most singularly important thing to the millennial generation–to be better at work, to achieve emotional clarity and to be at peak physical health. But, while the acknowledgement and action toward these goals is a good first step in achieving happiness, it doesn’t seem to be the answer.

Like mentioned previously, Happify found that millennials did not make their social lives with their family and friends a top priority. In previous research by American Psychological Association, it was also found that millennials’ goals are shifting away from community, affiliation and civic orientation and more toward individual success. Could lack emphasis on social experiences and relationships be the missing ingredient to make millennials happier?

While there is no definitive answer, it is clear that based on various research reports that millennials are more focused on the success of their careers and achieving individual perfection than previously thought. It could very well be that striving for such perfection is the root of a millennial’s unhappiness.

Has this research changed your perception of millennials? Tweet us your thoughts at @PGi, or leave a comment below.

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