In the current climate, it’s easy to see why younger generations are becoming interested in political activism. In 2016, the Millennial Impact Report found that more than half of all millennials surveyed consider themselves an activist. But it turns out civic engagement doesn’t just benefit society, it also increases their possibilities for future employment. Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have published a study that found teenagers who are actively engaged with politics, be it through voting, volunteering or activism, are more likely to earn higher wages when they’re older.
Activism that engages adolescents with their surrounding community doesn’t just do wonders for their careers, according to the report, it has clear mental health benefits, too. Researchers found that participants had fewer symptoms of depression and had a lower risk for negative health behaviors, such as substance use.
Parissa J. Ballard, who led the study, said: “We know from past research that taking part in civic activities can help people feel more connected to others and help build stronger communities, but we wanted to know if civic engagement in adolescence could enhance people’s health, education level and income as they become adults.”
Marches, protests, and online activism are all changing the dynamics of government. In 2012, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Harvard University published a report that posited a direct correlation between student protests and changes in policies under the Obama administration. The paper said that organizing efforts such as the Occupy Movement had “built enough pressure to force the Obama administration to announce a temporary deferral on the deportation of undocumented youth.”
Of course, being a member of the hashtag resistance has other side affects. The same study also found that activist teenagers engage in “risky behavior” later on in life. “In this study, we couldn’t determine why that was the case, but I think activism can be frustrating for teens and young adults because they are at a stage in life where they are more idealistic and impatient with the slow pace of social change,” said head researcher Ballard. “I would encourage parents to help their children remain passionate about their cause but also learn to manage expectations as to short- and long-term goals.”