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65% of Young Consumers Felt Constantly Stressed Pre-COVID—That Hasn’t Changed

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 – and next.

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

Gen Z & Millennial burnout hasn’t disappeared in quarantine—here’s what it looks like now…

Between existential crises like climate change, the 2008 recession, and now the global coronavirus pandemic (as well as individual struggles like crushing student debt, fears of unemployment and family members getting sick), Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in a constant state of stress. We’ve seen the rise of burnout for quite a while. In fact, in our research on Gen Z and Millennial burnout pre-COVID, 65% of 13-39-year-olds reported feeling constantly stressed, and a full 93% said they had felt burnt out at some point. Anxiety and caution were already hallmark traits for these generations—and a global pandemic has only intensified this. While some might have envisioned the time at home as an opportunity to escape the stresses of everyday life, many have found that they have followed them into quarantine, and over a third of young people say their mental health has been affected by Coronavirus. The fact is, young consumers’ burnout still exists (and is, in some ways, worse) during the pandemic. Here’s what burnout looks like now—and what brands might do to help:


With 84% of quarantined young consumers telling YPulse they are relying on technology and social media to stay close with friends and family during this time, they’ve been spending a huge amount of their time connecting with loved ones in digital spaces. Video chat platforms have quickly become the socialization norm. Games like Animal Crossing and Fortnite have been coopted as places to digitally hang out with friends. These generations were primed to use their devices to get through isolation and try to escape loneliness—and they were also primed to be burnt out on digital socialization as well. Pre-COVID, YPulse’s research found that 43% had taken a break from responding to communication from friends and family to combat stress or anxiety, and 41% had taken a break from social media. Quarantines have intensified their need for connection but also overloaded them with communication, meetings, and virtual hangouts. For every article about creative video chat happy hours is a think piece on the new Zoom fatigue setting in for quarantined consumers. There are actually instructionals on how to prevent it. Since the outset of COVID, brands have been encouraging connection, throwing virtual events, and fostering community. But as quarantine has dragged on, some might actually be craving privacy and offline time more than anything. Consider tips and tricks (even tongue-in-cheek ones) for stealing time alone, ducking a video meet-up without hurting feelings, unplugging and, in general, easing their social distance socialization fatigue. 


Along with the forced solitude and stay-at-home measures has come an increase in articles and social media posts encouraging people to use this time at home as productively as possible. At-home workouts, ideas on how to clean every room of the house, viral challenges, bread recipes (etc.) can sometimes be a welcome relief from the overwhelming stress of the new normal of spending time at home, but can also get overwhelming to the already anxious generations. A rise of articles fighting back against the forced productivity (and fear of quarantine weight gain) have also been gaining in popularity. As Nick Martin writes in the New Republic, “The crux of these kinds of posts and newsletters and articles and mandates from work is rooted in the same misguided mindset: Yes, this pandemic is bad, but how can you improve yourself with all this solitude? And more to the point, how can you continue to prove your worth as a hard worker?” Brands can assist burnt out Gen Z and Millennials by helping them focus on self-care—a great example is self-care app Shine, which partnered with US non-profit Mental Health America to build a website offering wellness tools for dealing with the pandemic. Another app, 10% Happier, publishes daily live streams on YouTube, where users can participate in a guided meditation with an instructor before having the opportunity to ask anxiety-related questions.


For those who are lucky enough to have kept their jobs and be able to work from home, employment burnout is taking a different form. BuzzFeed’s now well-known piece on Millennial burn out argued that the generation has been trained to “optimize time,” and have “internalized the idea that [they] should be working all the time”—so what does that look like when they never actually leave their “workplaces”? With 66% of Millennials currently working from home, there is an enormous number of this generation trying to figure out that balance—and struggling with it. Almost half of employed Millennials felt that their work performance would be negatively impacted by COVID, and according to our latest data, 36% say it has been a difficult transition and 34% say they are getting less work done. Millennial parents are even more overwhelmed by the change, with many trying to balance work with homeschooling. For many, working from home means they are never not working. Tips for how to successfully work from home are desired by 38% of employed Millennials, and figuring out how to “turn off” should be an increasing focus.