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Comparison of first-year nursing students' GAD-7 scores: a pilot study focusing on Generation Z

20 June 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 12



In a post-pandemic landscape, Generation Z (Gen Z) nursing students are increasingly facing mental health challenges, notably anxiety. This study investigated these challenges among first-year nursing students.


The primary objective was to assess self-reported anxiety levels in first-year undergraduate nursing students, focusing on Gen Z, before or at the onset of their initial clinical placement post-pandemic.


Employing a cross-sectional design, this study used the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire to evaluate anxiety levels. It encompassed first-year nursing students from various fields at a university in North East England, considering generational differences, field of nursing, and demographic variables.


Results indicated anxiety levels among generational groups, with Gen Z students exhibiting extreme variations. Notably, students in Mental Health Nursing reported less anxiety than their counterparts in other nursing fields. The study also sheds light on the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on student mental health.


The study underscores the necessity for bespoke support systems in educational and clinical environments, particularly for Gen Z students. It advocates for comprehensive strategies in universities and clinical settings to nurture nursing students' emotional health, thereby enhancing their resilience and long-term career prospects

In the UK, five generations of nurses are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2022): the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y/Millennials and Generation Z/Post-Millennials (Jones et al, 2015). Generational characteristics, shaped by life experiences and world events, vary significantly (Shorey et al, 2021).

Although generalising traits across a generation can obscure individual differences (Hampton and Keys, 2017), recognising these generational variances in preferences, work habits and attitudes is particularly important (Stutzer, 2019).

Generation Z's (Gen Z) traits are particularly shaped by technology (Chicca and Shellenbarger, 2018; Allen, 2021). Born into a world connected by the internet (Seemiller and Grace, 2017), they are often referred to as ‘digital natives’ (Hernandez-de-Menendez et al, 2020). Twenge (2017) noted their emotional vulnerability, attributing it to delayed adolescence, increased social isolation, anxiety and depression, often stemming from virtual communication, which leads to underdeveloped social and relational skills. The American Psychological Association (2018) reported that Gen Z students are more likely to acknowledge mental health challenges and seek assistance. Consequently, more students with pre-existing mental health conditions are entering university (McLafferty et al, 2017), a setting already associated with heightened mental health risks (Jenkins et al, 2021).

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