Generation Me? Maybe not - a new survey suggests millennials care about a lot more than just themselves.

A survey by youth charity Inspiring Stories asked people aged 13 to their 30s to rank the importance of issues that keep them awake at night from one to 10.

And contrary to cliche, it wasn't all about smashed avocado and social media. The state of the environment topped the list, followed by concerns about mental health and wellbeing.

The results resonated with Inspiring Stories' chief executive and founder Guy Ryan, who was honoured as Young New Zealander of the Year in 2015 for his work with millennials and at 31 years old is part of the generation himself.


Ryan said they "definitely" echoed what he was hearing from young people through his work and although they used a small sample, the results showed millennials - often dubbed Generation "Me" - do care about the future of New Zealand.

"I think a whole lot of young New Zealanders do care that we're not taking strong leadership on climate change and these are huge issues that our young people will face."

The survey was carried out ahead of the Festival for the Future conference to be held next month.

A group of millennials approached by the Herald on Sunday in Auckland CBD said their main concern was the student loans hanging over their heads.

Zachariah Al-Alami, 22, said his student debt made it hard to think about renting, never mind buying a house, and putting food on the table.

Coco Al-Alami, 24, and Foulagi Johnson, 30, also raised the issue of housing. The pair own a house on Auckland's North Shore, which they have filled with flatmates to help pay the mortgage.

"I'm working fulltime and I'm studying fulltime and I don't think [owning a home] would be attainable if we didn't have it subsidised by flatmates," said Johnson.

Of the 150 respondents from around New Zealand, 81 per cent said they considered the future of the environment to be very important, ranking the topic a ranking between eight and 10, and just under three-quarters (74 per cent) said it very important to talk about mental health and well-being.

The release of findings of the survey comes after the Herald last week launched a major series - Breaking The Silence - looking at New Zealand's youth suicide rate.

Ryan said the survey results clearly illustrated some leaders weren't doing enough to combat issues like mental health and the environment.

Despite many youths' interest in and readiness to engage with issues that affect New Zealand, a lot still felt really disempowering and disengaged from the political system.

"If you look at the stats the youth voter turnout has been in decline for the last several elections."

Inspiring Stories chief executive and founder Guy Ryan in his office at BizDojo in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Inspiring Stories chief executive and founder Guy Ryan in his office at BizDojo in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He told the Herald on Sunday he believed one of the biggest challenges facing young Kiwis was that the world was changing so quickly and many people in power, particularly in government, grew up in a different time.

"We've got so many young people coming out of tertiary education right now with unprecedented student debt. The cost of housing is higher than it's ever been. The nature of work is changing. This [is] coupled with some really big environmental challenges that we face.

"We've got a pretty narrow window. If we don't get this stuff right then it's going to have some pretty devastating consequences for many, many, many years to come and for our future."

Ryan said more investment into robust research about what young Kiwis think of the state of the nation and what their vision was for the future was important.

And he said the perception that millennials were selfish and entitled was mostly inaccurate.

"I don't agree with the 'Generation Me' thing. I think it's really hard to generalise across an entire generation. Even if you look at the millennial demographic, it's people born between 1980 and 2000 which is a 20 year span - which is pretty significant."

The survey results have been used to shape the programme of this year's Festival for the Future, run by youth for youth and to be held at Auckland's Aotea Centre from August 4 to 6.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


•LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
•SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
•YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
•NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
•KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
•WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
•DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
•SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666