An introduction to today’s adolescents

What comes to mind when you think of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012)?

Technology? They’ve grown up with social media, seem capable of navigating any app, and can multitask better than previous generations.

Maybe you’ve heard them called “the anxious generation.” It’s no secret that 24/7 connectivity and real-time exposure to global events take a toll on mental health. Many of today’s young adults grew up with smartphones at their fingertips. And when the pandemic hit, it exacerbated a spike in depression and anxiety among students of all ages. ​

But this generation is so much more than those struggles.

What’s on their minds? What are their hopes and goals? How has their culture shaped their values? There’s a big gap in research about Gen Z that explores topics beyond technology and mental health.

This is what The RELATE Project is all about.

How can we help young adults use the positive traits that define their generation — like their enthusiasm for social issues and eagerness to engage in the world — to help them mature into confident, secure adults, eager to make a positive contribution to the future?

Gen Z faces some unique challenges. The cost of starter homes is higher than ever, college tuition is leaving millions in debt, and now that they can “do anything and be anything,” they’re overwhelmed with choice. But these challenges aren’t slowing them down. Gen Z is stronger, more creative, and more invested in the world because of the hurdles they’re experiencing.

In The RELATE Project, we’re moving the conversation from anxiety to resilience and possibility. How can we invest in adolescents so they’ll flourish now and in the future? Our goal is to bring Gen Z’s aspirations and opportunities into the conversation.

Adolescents today face a unique set of expectations. They feel like they need to be kind, but also authentic. They’re open-minded of others, but also care deeply what their peers think of them.

How can older generations — parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, and faith leaders — help young adults grow emotionally and spiritually during this crucial phase of their lives? What do they need from us? In this issue we feature the first part of the study, where we’ll share some surprising results that we hope will encourage you about Gen Z!

About the Study

The RELATE Project examined the relationships, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences of adolescents ages 13 through 24 — across five countries and/or regions around the globe. To achieve broad and diverse representation, a total of 7,261 adolescents were surveyed, including:

  • 1,994 in the United States (U.S.)
  • 1,004 in the United Kingdom (UK)
  • 1,768 in Mexico
  • 997 in India
  • 1,498 in Eastern Africa (627 in Kenya, 447 in Uganda, 413 in Ethiopia, 11 in Tanzania)

This research was conducted by Young Life’s Research and Practice Group in collaboration with Pinkston, a strategic communications firm. Advisory team members came from a diverse group of organizations, including: Princeton Theological Seminary, Fuller Youth Institute, National Catholic Educational Association, American Bible Society, OneHope, and Gordon Conwell Seminary.

For full details about the research, please visit



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