Current events have deeply affected younger workers’ mental health, forcing them to take a hard look at their career priorities and make changes.

Over a year into the pandemic, an unsteady job market has wreaked havoc on corporate America. Nearly three-quarters of the global workforce is looking to transition out of their current work environment — 85% of which are Gen Z workers, according to a recent workforce review study conducted by ADP. One in seven workers between the ages of 18 to 24 is actively trying to move into a new industry that they consider more “future proof.”

For Gen Z workers just now entering the workforce, COVID has prevented them from taking full advantage of corporate life, says Nela Richardson, ADP’s chief economist.

“Younger people are less specialized — more general,” Richardson says. “Gen Z has had to enter the job market during the pandemic and if they were successful in securing a job, they may have not yet met their boss or their colleagues.”

Of the thousands of Americans who have been affected by COVID, Gen Z has been the hardest hit, the study found. Seventy-eight percent found their professional lives affected and 39% lost jobs, were furloughed, or suffered a temporary layoff from their employer. Despite hurting morale — optimism fell to 83% from 93% compared to last year — it does give young workers’ a unique advantage, Richardson says.

“They're in the best position to reorient right now,” she says. “Someone who's mid-career or late-career probably doesn't have the same ability to shift gears.”

The relative ease with which Gen Z can change careers, however, is doing nothing to ease their psychological burden — 43% of young adults between the ages 18 and 34 are increasingly concerned about their own mental health, according to a recent survey by Aetna, a CVS Health company. In addition, 68% say their financial stress has grown in the face of current events.

“Setbacks and stressors are more novel to them — meaning they haven't yet developed the same coping mechanisms that folks who are older have,” says Joe Gasso, clinical director of partnerships and a licensed clinical psychologist at Lyra Health, a mental health resource company. “There's greater rates of hopelessness, loneliness, anxiety, and stress in this group. Those symptoms are more likely to impact this generation's ability to work.”

With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, many companies have set their sights on slowly reintroducing in-person work — an effort that employers hope will tackle both the retention of their younger talent and the decline in mental health, says Gasso.

“There's a lot of accelerated momentum around return to office in part to support this group,” he says. “The interest in being around peers is especially strong for Gen Z employees, so they return to the office is seen as a benefit.”