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Actually, Gen Z & Millennials Do Think COVID-19 Is Serious

YPulse is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on young consumers and how brands can respond. We’ll be providing new data and insights for you weekly to cope with the crisis, including special reports, exclusive data on Coronavirus and the next generations, and actionable insights on what brands need to be doing now.

You can access everything here on our young consumers and COVID-19 hub.

Are young consumers really ignoring all the dangers of the pandemic, or not taking Coronavirus seriously? Our exclusive data shows what’s really going on…

Those darn kids just can’t follow the pandemic rules! Young people are all over the beaches in Florida, still going out to bars, spreading COVID-19 and putting everyone at risk—or at least that’s what the headlines would have you believe. Articles about how Gen Z and Millennials are exacerbating the worldwide crisis are plentiful, as are headlines claiming that they’re not taking the pandemic seriously. The Coronavirus has given a new angle to the already-brewing battle between younger and older generations. It hasn’t helped that some young social media users started calling the pandemic the #BoomerRemover, causing the nickname to trend on Twitter. But the reality of the situation is much different than headlines and trending hashtags might have you believe.

Firstly, many Millennials have loudly expressed frustrations in trying to get their own Boomer parents to stay home, and some experts say that young consumers are more likely to quarantine themselves. Our Generational Blame Game research found that younger generations were already frustrated with their elders—and it seems like COVID-19 is amplifying the tensions. And according to YPulse’s exclusive research on young consumers and COVID-19, young people do in fact see the pandemic as serious, and are taking the actions to protect themselves—and those they love. The top three feelings that Gen Z and Millennials have about Coronavirus are cautious, anxious, and scared. We’ve also been asking 13-39-year-olds in the U.S. if they have begun to self-quarantine because of the Coronavirus (i.e. stay at home as much as possible, avoid contact with others)—this is what our most recent data, fielded March 27th, 2020 to March 31st, 2020 says about their quarantining behavior:

YPulse research shows that the majority of both Gen Z and Millennials are definitely staying at home. Our most recent survey found that 84% of 13-39-year-olds overall say they are self-quarantining, an increase from 79% just a week earlier. Broken down by generation, just 12% of Gen Z and 16% of Millennials aren’t quarantining right now—and those supposed Spring Breaker Gen Zs are actually slightly more likely to say they’re staying isolated at home. (Our most recent COVID-19 special report explores the realities of quarantine for these generations, and how they’re coping with and surviving the crisis.)

Following quarantine rules is one of the biggest measures that shows how seriously young consumers are taking COVID-19, but it’s not the only one. We’ve also been asking Gen Z and Millennials what actions they’ve taken because of Coronavirus, from washing their hands more to cutting down on shopping in stores and delaying a major life event. Our most recent survey shows that the majority of both generations have taken significant measures to alter their lives in response to the crisis:

Looking at a summary of the data, taking measures to isolate (including spending time at home, working and going to school from home, and cutting down on in-store shopping) is the biggest way these generations have made changes. But the majority are also sharing information about the virus, have changed their hygiene behavior, or purchased something (like food/supplies at home, sanitizer, or a mask). Half also tell us that they have delayed or cancelled major plans (like a life milestone or trip). Gen Z teens are missing big events like prom and graduation because of the pandemic, and Millennials are pushing back weddings, or even getting married on conference calls. So clearly, they’re taking the pandemic seriously to make big sacrifices and changes.

But what about their views on COVID-19? Is it true that, despite staying home and washing their hands more, they don’t see the pandemic as a serious threat? Here are some of the statements that they agreed with in our most recent fielding:

The Majority of Millennials, and half of Gen Z, believe that the Coronavirus will have as great of an impact on the U.S. as 9/11 and the Great Recession, which many of them grew up in the shadow of. Just as significantly, the majority of both generations also believe that the world will never be the same going forward. We’ve started to explore the ways that COVID-19 could permanently change young consumers, and clearly they’re just as conscious that this crisis is not a fleeting moment.

There are two stats here that could be interpreted as evidence that they don’t take COVID-19 seriously, but they are worth exploring. Three in five Gen Z and half of Millennials agree that the panic surrounding Coronavirus is overblown. But since they’re clearly also following the isolation rules, this belief is not seriously impacting their behavior. Instead, it could be fueling their fears about the pandemic’s impact: 54% of 13-39-year-olds tell us that they are afraid of the economy crashing because of COVID-19, and half say they are afraid of running out of supplies. So it’s likely that they are wary of the actual panic buying and financial upsets that have resulted from the reactions to the virus.

The majority of young people now disagree with the statement that they won’t get the Coronavirus because they are young and healthy, meaning that most do see themselves as being at risk. But even for those who don’t think they will get the virus, concern about loved ones is significant: loved ones getting sick is their top fear about COVID-19.