Are you living at home with your parents? Is your mental health declining or improving as you leave adolescence behind? How much screentime do you spend on work/study/entertainment? How common is it to experience discrimination in your daily life?
These are some of the big questions which thousands of 25-year-olds will be asked as part of a major study aimed at capturing a snapshot of the lives, aspirations and challenges facing Generation Z.
It is the latest phase of Growing Up in Ireland, a national longitudinal study which has been tracking the same cohort of young people since 2007, when they were nine.
This group has been surveyed regularly regarding major milestones and events of global significance such as the recession and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The next round of face-to-face interviews, scheduled for next year, will gather a much wider array of information about their lives as they approach their mid-20s.
Researchers say this will include young people’s transition to adulthood, how they are faring in relation to key aspects of their lives such as education, work, physical and mental health, housing, relationships and wellbeing.
Importantly, it will also shed light on how their experiences during childhood and adolescence have shaped their adult lives and opportunities.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the latest phase of research is the product of detailed planning and collaboration between his department and the Growing Up in Ireland study team at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The questions to be asked were formed by researchers drawing on conversations with young adults, experts and policy-makers.
He said the Central Statistics Office plans to use the statistical potential of administrative data to supplement the survey findings. He said this will add rich insights to what we learn from survey responses and mirrors strategies used by longitudinal studies internationally.
“I am confident that the new model of delivery will build on the success and experience of the study to date and will continue to provide rich insights into the experiences of participants, the trajectories of their lives, the factors that helped or hindered them along the way, and the impact of policy and wider social change on their pathways and outcomes,” he said.
Aisling Murray, co-author of a new research report on the next phase of the study, said the timing of the pandemic with the transition into the labour market for the young adults born in 1998 means that up-to-date information on their progress is especially important.
In focus groups with young people to help identify areas of interest for inclusion in questions, some key themes emerged. Participants commented on how the pandemic has changed young people’s perspectives on life and how they planned for the future:
“I think this was a real pivotal point . . . you’re done college, you’re done those expectations and suddenly that’s put to a halt . . . a lot of things will change for you, how you plan, where you saw yourself,” said one young person.
There was also a clear sense that housing was a priority issue facing young people, particularly its lack of affordability.
“In my age group, moving out is just impossible,” said one.
One participant mentioned as a source of stress the shortage of accommodation, rising prices and units being bought in bulk by private companies.
Another cited recent research by the ESRI reporting that people in their 20s and 30s may be the first generation in modern Ireland with lower living standards than their parents.
Barriers to accessing further education were discussed such as interactions with social welfare payments and being able to secure grants, and whether this influences young people’s decision to go on to college or to work.
“College is maybe not even an option anymore, you know, there’s issues around getting grants . . . all these different things are impacting the decision-making process for education,” said one participant.