Society Culture

All Aboard the Trauma Train


“Back in my day, trauma didn’t exist. When soldiers went off to war, they came back with wives, not PTSD.”

- Boomers in the eyes of Gen Z.


“Excuse me, boss: I can’t come into work today because of an emergency. I spilled my $8 double frap mocha and I’m traumatized. I just can’t even.”

- Gen Z, according to Boomers.


There is no shortage of jokes in the zeitgeist about Gen Z’s sensitivity and willingness to invoke the T-word. But is it true that Gen Zers are more likely to feel traumatized?


When comparing the generations, Gen Zers (69%) are equally as likely to say they have experienced trauma as Boomers (70%) and Gen Xers (72%). Millennials, on the other hand, are much less likely to say they’ve had a traumatic experience (59%) than other generations. The obvious takeaway is that watching Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World mentally prepared Millennials for the rough road, otherwise known as life.


Relatedly, Gen Z (54%) and Millennials (50%) are more willing to accept trauma from everyday experiences (“little-t trauma”) as legitimate trauma and not simply a bad experience when compared to Boomers (30%) and Gen Xers (40%). Instead of our typical quip, we would like to point out that both the psychological community and Merriam-Webster’s dictionary consider big-T and little-t trauma legitimate.


Even though the generations may disagree about how to define trauma, 76% of all Americans believe trigger warnings are a useful measure to protect people who have experienced a traumatic event or may be susceptible to being traumatized by specific material. Big or small, if you have experienced a traumatic event, know that most people are willing to protect your feelings.


And for all those wondering which events in life Americans think are the most traumatic, Gradient has you covered. Speaking of covered, walking in on your parents “under the covers” is rated as more traumatizing than giving birth! Talk about two big ol’ T traumas (there’s the quip you were