Posted April 23, 2020 by Mark Perna
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one concern we all share. Mark’s article, “COVID-19 Is Affecting Every Generation Differently,” published at Forbes.com on April 23, 2020.
Your level of concern regarding the coronavirus crisis in America—and what exactly you’re concerned about—could have a lot to do with what generation you’re from. While 90% of all Americans are expressing a high level of concern regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, their specific concerns vary.
ENGINE Insights’ weekly survey is finding that of all generational cohorts, Millennials and Gen-Z are expressing the lowest concern about the virus itself. But this is not to say that they’re not worried. The health of older family members, their own personal mental health and sadness over missing life milestones are key areas of concern to the youngest generations, according Cassandra’s Life Interrupted Report.
Of course, no one wants to fall victim to COVID-19, but Millennials and Gen-Z are less worried about contracting the virus themselves than they are about their loved ones catching it. “Younger consumers may not be quite as concerned about their own health, but voice concern for older family members (e.g., parents, grandparents) getting sick,” says Cassandra SVP Kathy Sheehan.
Gen-X and Boomers, on the other hand, are reporting more anxiety about the virus. “We are seeing higher percentages of Gen X and Boomers describing themselves as very concerned (60% and 63% respectively),” says ENGINE Insights CEO Don Simons. This corresponds with the health risks that increase with the patient’s age.
Older generations are indicating that it will take more to make them feel confident that the COVID-19 outbreak is under control. “We see a slightly higher percentage of Gen X and Boomers saying they would need to see a vaccine; and Boomers are significantly higher for wanting to see zero new cases—52% versus others (Gen X, Gen Z and Millennials) in the 30% range,” says Simons. Gen-X and Boomers are also more likely to expect a longer period of social distancing.
Mental health challenges—already a big topic for Millennials and Gen-Z prior to coronavirus—are being amplified by the crisis. “Lots of young people talk about the efforts they are making “to stay positive” during the pandemic,” Sheehan notes.
One of the Life Interrupted respondents, 15-year-old Dani, expressed what many in her generation are feeling. “My mental health before all of this was not the best. I have severe mental health issues, and this pandemic isn’t making it any better.”
Not to mention the sadness many young people are feeling as they watch major life milestones—graduation, prom, birthday parties, weddings, driver’s tests, vacations, and more—roll by without being celebrated. “Traditional ‘rites of passage’ are being disrupted for many,” Sheehan says. This sense of loss is further contributing to the mental health battles that many Millennials and Gen-Zers are fighting daily.
With classes canceled and their gig or service jobs halted, a significant number of young people are experiencing boredom. Millennials and Gen-Zers are coping with the forced inactivity in a wide range of ways, with some embracing this as an opportunity for personal development and others using the time to pay their “entertainment debt”—getting caught up on content they previously didn’t have time to consume.
“All youth are struggling a bit with the unstructured days,” Sheehan says. “We are seeing lots of examples of young people embracing these times with creativity and resilience—taking the opportunity of being home to learn things like how to cook, meditate, learn a new language or a TikTok dance, etc. On the flipside, there is also a lot of evidence of anxiety about how to keep oneself busy and stay positive.”
In general, the older generations are experiencing less boredom, as their work tends to translate more easily to a remote-work setting. “Older generations, especially Boomers, were less impacted by cancellations and closings as they started to roll out,” notes Simons. “Boomers are most likely to have not experienced a drop in household income: 63% versus 43–47% for all other generations.”
The survey notes that across the board, all generations are more concerned about their family members’ physical and mental health than they are about their own. While each generation may experience the pandemic from a different perspective, the well-being of our family remains the highest priority for us all.