An recent article from Wait But Why titled Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy blames young professionals for being unhappy because their expectations are too high; they believe themselves special.

each individual [Generation Y Yuppie] thinks that he or she is destined for something even better


Lucy's extreme ambition, coupled with the arrogance that comes along with being a bit deluded about one's own self-worth, has left her with huge expectations for even the early years out of college. And her reality pales in comparison to those expectations, leaving her "reality - expectations" happy score coming out at a negative.

The anonymous author fails to demonstrate that this is the true cause of the unhappiness of Generation Y in their working life, but more importantly, fails to demonstrate that the young adults in Generation Y are any less happy with their place in the workforce than the young adults in Generation X, Baby Boomers, in the Depression Era, or any other demographic age groups you might fail to clearly define.

Which leads to my question:

Are Generation Y members any less happy than previous generations at the same age?

  • 1
    I don't know about less happy, but there's a pretty significant body of stats (that I am not looking up on my phone) indicating that young people today are less optimistic about their future - particularly economically - than their parents or grandparents were. Sep 16, 2013 at 13:33
  • Happiness is kind of subjective, what are you looking for as a quantifiable answer?
    – rjzii
    Sep 16, 2013 at 13:52
  • Also, I'm not sure I agree with the articles inclusion of the late 1970s in the Generation Y cohort. Usually Generation Y is the early 1980's to early 2000's.
    – rjzii
    Sep 16, 2013 at 14:48
  • @rob: I assumed some happiness metric. Am I being naive in expecting it to be measurable somehow? If there is truly no way of measuring happiness of a group, this question should be closed as unclear.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 16, 2013 at 15:29
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz: That's tricky. I expect young adults to have a lower optimism to purchase their own home in Sydney than their grandparents, because house prices in Sydney are less affordable now. Such a lack of optimism would be rational, and nothing to do with the subjects touched on in the article. So I would prefer to avoid economic optimism but, to Rob's point, it may be hard to distinguish definitions.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 16, 2013 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


The hypothesis that generation Y / millennials are particularly unhappy is not well supported by the evidence.

From "Millennials - A Portrait of Generation Next", Pew Research Center:

Among Millennials, 31% say they are very happy these days and an additional 56% are somewhat happy. Only 12% say they are not too happy. Nearly equal proportions of Gen Xers (27%), Boomers (29%) and Silents (27%) are very happy. Members of the Silent generation are somewhat more likely than Millennials to say they are not too happy with their lives (20%).

From "The Next Normal: An Unprecedented Look At Millennials Worldwide", Blog.Viacom

And when we looked back at data from 2006, we found that Millennials today are even happier today than they were back then. Young people today are demonstrating an amazing duality when it comes to harsh economic realities and their ability to be happy.

From Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2009). Millennials rising: The next great generation. Random House Digital, Inc., at p. 178:

Since the 1990s, "happiness" among teens has been trending higher...

From "Viacom Unveils Findings From Global Research Study, "The Next Normal: An Unprecedented Look At Millennials Worldwide"", Viacom

But despite significant economic concerns, the vast majority of Millennials worldwide demonstrate a strong sense of happiness and optimism.

  • "Millennials today are even happier today than they were back then. Young people today are demonstrating an amazing duality when it comes to harsh economic realities and their ability to be happy.". That seems highly correlated to the rise of the hookup culture :)
    – user5341
    Oct 4, 2013 at 13:08
  • What about the much higher rates among GenY compared to GenX, which were already much higher compared to the BBs?
    – user134593
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:52

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