Why are so many people in their 20s unhappy?

Arnav Roy
5 min readApr 16, 2023

I got this message the other day:

“Hey Arnav, in recent years, well-being has become more of a bigger topic in culture. Yet, what’s interesting, at least in my personal experience with my friends, is I don’t see more people happier even with the increased dialogue on mental health and well-being. Obviously, all my friends and I are in our 20’s, do you think happiness is harder to obtain for people in their 20s?”

  1. Just because your personal experience with your friends doesn’t show improvement doesn’t mean for the broader society, things haven’t gotten better.

I think a lot of people make this mistake when formulating their thoughts on certain things.

Your friend group is just one data point in the bigger data set of the entire world. Obviously, I understand, from your viewpoint of the world, you use your friend group as the biggest example, since you interact with them the most, however, we have to look at the broader data of facts.

Things, like — what percentage of people are going to therapy in 2023 versus 2013? Or how are crime rates in 2023 compared to 2013?

2. Just because the broader dialogue has gotten better, doesn’t mean your personal friends are taking use of it.

Mental health and therapy have gotten less stigmatized in recent years as more famous and successful people say they use it for their well-being, but that doesn’t mean your personal friends are actually going to therapy, which may be why you haven’t noticed a big difference with the people you surround yourself with.

Obviously, I don’t know the answers to those questions with your specific friend group, but I guess what I’m trying to say, certainly knowledge is definitely one aspect of life.

But maybe even more important, is whether people are actually making changes on that knowledge.

It’s one thing to know about something, it’s a completely different thing to act on that knowledge.

Now, more to answer your question.

3. I’ll say this — the twenties, in general, are when the foundation of your life is built, which isn’t always the most fun.

When it comes to work, the twenties are when a lot of the hard work happens. You may be in school in your twenties, you may be in an entry level job in your twenties, etc, etc, so the rewards aren’t always there necessarily. In other words, you’re twenties, you work hard to set the foundation for more rewards in your 30s and onwards.

The, when it comes to relationships, again, it’s usually the foundation for the future rewards. In other words, most people are single in their twenties, and hope to find their life partner by the end of the decade.

I think these 2 factors (work and relationships) are big parts of people life and can cause a lot of stress so that may lead to people in their 20s being not as happy.

4. People set arbitrary long-term goals, and don’t enjoy the present

I think setting goals is great. You should aim to better your life year to year and even over long-term periods, like 5 years or 10 years.

But, I think a lot of people in their 20s, set arbitrary goals like making a certain salary or buying a condo/house, and until that happens, they feel inadequate.

Certainly, aiming to say, in a decade, I want to buy a condo is a fine goal. You can figure out based on your salary, how much you need to save per year to save up for the down payment and things like that.

But what a lot of people in their 20s do is now set that goal as the bar for happiness, and until that goal is accomplished, they’re not going to feel happy.

There’s 2 things wrong with this.

a. First, the goal that you accomplish isn’t going to really change you.

I think plenty of professionally successful people, like Jim Carrey, and others, have said this in some form or another, but accomplishing “fame/success/whatever your goal” doesn’t mean the internal mechanics of your thinking change.

In other words, if you’re unhappy to begin with, living in a condo/house isn’t going to change that. You’re now just going to be unhappy in that condo/house.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely pride in accomplishing the goal and there’s happiness in that, but that’ll normalize.

After a month of living in the condo, your life will normalize, and again you will go back to being who you were before the condo.

b. You don’t have any day to day enjoyment

I see so many people in their late 20s who are single for example, and tend to be miserable because until they’re in a relationship with their life partner, they can’t be happy.

I think that’s dumb. Associating certain accomplishments to daily happiness is stupid.

You can be happy and still be seeking a life partner. You can be in an apartment, saving up for a house, and still be happy.

5. People in their 20s are always comparing and I think, especially today, social media plays a big role in that

I think with the advent of social media and being able to see what so many people are doing, comparing goes on a daily basis for many people in their 20s.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

The ability to focus on your journey and improving yourself and those around you is not in focus.

You may have a good day, or you may be proud of the growth you’ve made year to year, but then you go on social media and see so many other people who on screen seem to have a better life than you and people get sad or depressed.

Limiting social media or using social media in the right way is a real key that a lot of people in their 20s haven’t learned.

6. Final piece of advice, not really related to age, is audit your life

There’s a way to manage your happiness.

Audit your mood.

Are you happy at your job? Are you happy with the relationships and people you surround yourself with?

If either of these are not the case, can you make a change? Can you search for a new job? Can you limit time with a person who is bringing your mood down?

Can you do more of the things that make you happy in your life?

Maybe you enjoy playing a sport. Why not join an adult sports league?

Maybe you enjoy video games. Maybe incorporate playing more video games into your life.

Make sure to enjoy the journey. Day to day, create more time for things that bring you joy.



Arnav Roy

Mental health advocate, host of Grateful Living Podcast. Life Coach. YouTube Channel: Grateful Living. Instagram @aroy81547.