Most millennials struggling with quarter-life crisis, survey shows

LONDON — More than half of millennials are experiencing a troubling bout of angst in the form of a “quarter-life crisis,” a new study finds.

Researchers at First Direct, a banking firm in the United Kingdom, recently surveyed 2,000 British millennials, aged 25 to 35, hoping to better understand how stress and uncertainty affects this cohort’s quality of life.

Upset young woman sitting in leaves
More than half of millennials are experiencing a troubling bout of angst in the form of a “quarter-life crisis,” a new study finds.

The survey showed 56% of those polled said they had fallen victim to a “quarter-life crisis,” a period of immense difficulty that lasted six months or longer on average. The leading causes of onset were trouble making ends meet (indicated by 53% of respondents), an unpleasant living situation (33%), a challenging career (28%), and relationship issues (25%).

While half of those surveyed believed that their struggles would ultimately result in reward, many found it hard to weather the storm.

“[Quarter-life crises are] often feared as periods of difficulty and distress, but in my experience they can also be times of openness, curiosity and growth,” says Dr. Oliver Robinson, a lecturer at the University of Greenwich, who helped with the research. “People may find old habits and coping mechanisms no longer help in the way they used to, and this can act as a spur to explore new ideas, new activities and new ways of overcoming life’s challenges.”

During a quarter-life crisis, respondents most frequently indicated feeling “anxious,” “frustrated,” “sad,” and “confused.”

Only 36% said that they had felt “happy” in mood, and just 27% said they had an “optimistic” disposition. Perhaps even more troubling is that only 37% could readily identify a person on whom they could rely in challenging times. The vast majority of these lifelines consisted of personal relations, such as friends and family.

The researchers emphasize that a major life event, such as a quarter-life crisis, can be a catalyst toward tremendous growth, if viewed from the proper perspective.

“By sharing [our] theory and experiences we hope we can help people reframe the way they think about difficult times,” explains Zoe Burns-Shore, an executive at First Direct.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll between April and November in 2017. Participants were recruited online and paid to participate.