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Pressure to reach life milestones affecting younger generations more – research

Keys from a new house given to owner (Svyatoslav Lypynskyy/ Alamy Stock Photo)
Keys from a new house given to owner (Alamy)

Some 77% of millennials and 83% of Gen Z feel pressure to reach traditional life milestones, according to a survey for Relate.


Pressure to hit social milestones such as getting married, having children and buying a house is affecting younger people more than previous generations, research suggests.

Some 77% of millennials (25 to 39-year-olds) and 83% of Gen Z (16 to 24-year-olds) feel pressure to reach traditional life milestones, according to a survey for the charity Relate.

This is up from 66% of over-75s and 70% of baby boomers (55 to 74-year-olds), who said they felt this way when they were younger.

Relate, which provides relationships support in England and Wales, said “milestone anxiety” is a topic that is increasingly coming up in therapy sessions.

The survey, of 2,022 UK respondents, was carried out by Censuswide between August 9-11.

It found that pressure to have children is rising for millennials, with 35% of feeling this way, compared to 17% of baby boomers and 13% of over-75s when they were younger.

"The early 30s seem to be a real crunch point and people can judge themselves unfairly when they haven't done things they think they 'should have'." - Relate Counsellor Natasha Silverman

Getting married was the second milestone younger people feel pressure to reach.

Gen Z were the least likely to say marriage was important to them (27%) compared to 38% of millennials, 41.9% of boomers and 60% of over-75s.

Some 14.9% of millennials said they felt pressure to buy a house with their partner – up from 8.6% of boomers and 7.5% of over-75s.

One in eight respondents said a lack of confidence in their own ability was the reason they had not reached life milestones, while the same proportion said it was down to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Finances were also cited as a reason.

Of those feeling pressure, 39% said this was coming from themselves, with 22% attributing it to society in general and 21% to their parents.

Gen Z were the most likely to say this pressure was coming from social media and the media (23%).

Male and lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents were more likely to report feeling pressure, the survey found.

Younger survey participants were more likely to feel that there are alternative milestones society should better recognise.

These include leaving an unhealthy relationship, deciding not to have children, deciding to stay single, coming out as LGBTQ+ and clearing your student debt.

Relate counsellor Natasha Silverman said she sees lots of clients in their 20s and 30s who are feeling “immense pressure” to achieve certain milestones.

She said: “The early 30s seem to be a real crunch point and people can judge themselves unfairly when they haven’t done things they think they ‘should have’.

“The truth is that people do things at different points, not always in the same order and some take a different path entirely.

“That’s absolutely valid and to be celebrated. It’s all about creating a life that’s authentic to you.”

Aidan Jones, Relate chief executive, said: “Gen Z is known for passion and action in driving change – it makes complete sense that this applies to relationships too.

“They want different milestones to be celebrated – like leaving an unhealthy relationship – and Relate’s here to support that reappraisal of what matters all the way.”


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