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How Worried are Young People about the Delta Variant of COVID-19?

With the new Delta variant becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19, how is it impacting Gen Z and Millennials’ plans?


While we’ve been charting young consumer’s excitement for a return to normalcy this summer, COVID-19 isn’t completely gone and new fears have emerged amid news of the “highly contagious” Delta variant that is becoming the dominant strain across the country and the rest of the world. With half the U.S. population vaccinated, there are new concerns about how the new variant will impact the journey getting back to “normal”—especially as reports show that it has been primarily infecting younger unvaccinated people. According to the CDC, the Delta variant now accounts for 83% of all “sequenced samples” in the U.S. On Monday, stocks fell sharply as worries swept through Wall Street and other parts of the globe that the worsening pandemic in certain hotspots would “derail what’s been a strong economic recovery.

But while Wall Street wobbled because of Delta, just how worried are Gen Z and Millennials about the Delta variant, and is it impacting their daily lives? Today we used our on-demand survey platform PULSE to ask whether the variant has impacted young peoples’ behavior, purchasing, or plans. But first, to get a sense of how many may be more at risk, we asked how many are currently vaccinated:

When we fielded our Summer Plans behavioral report at the end of April, YPulse found that 30% of 13-39-year-olds say they had already been vaccinated, and 26% said they planned to be before the summer—and clearly they followed through on those plans. Our  PULSE survey today indicates that 68% of 16-34-year-olds are currently vaccinated, while 32% of 16-34-year-olds say they still have not gotten the vaccine. Roughly half of those who have not yet received the vaccine told YPulse they plan to get it. Interestingly, when we dug into the vaccination status a little further, we found that 11% of those who are currently vaccinated say they got the vaccine because of the Delta variant. So, while a new variant is hardly good news, it is clearly inspiring some to get vaccinated. That data is also an indication that the Delta variant is in fact worrying many young people, which our survey found was true:

Over half of young people say they are worried about the Delta variant, compared to 41% who aren’t worried or don’t know about it. With the variant making headlines, fears are being stoked—but when we look at their behavior, it seems despite their fears most young people are continuing with their plans, and being cautious but not completely pulling back from their return to normal: 

Forty-two percent of 16-34-year-olds say they are wearing masks in public spaces because of the Delta variant, indicating that they are using precautions in the face of the new strain. But the majority are not avoiding public transportation, quarantining, or staying home from work specifically because of Delta. Our most recent syndicated surveys indicate that Gen Z and Millennials’ return to normal activities is progressing, and today’s data aligns with that. And those changing their purchasing plans are also in the minority:  

Most 16-34-year-olds are not avoiding concerts, sporting events, going to the gym, restaurants and bars, or the movies because of the Delta variant.  YPulse’s data from last month found that more than half (55%) of 13-39-year-olds say they were comfortable going out to eat at restaurants, while 35% of 13-39-year-olds were comfortable with going to the movies. Meanwhile, only 19% and 16% of 16-34-year-olds say they are delaying or cancelling travel plans and a major purchase because of Delta. YPulse’s travel and outdoors behavioral research found that 63% of 13-39-year-olds agree: “Travel is even more important to me now than it was before Coronavirus.” Overall, while the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is a concern among young consumers, a majority are still continuing to resume the activities that they were doing pre-pandemic, but with caution. 

According to one respondent, “I’m not doing any of these, but feel confident in my vaccination so far. Unvaccinated people are what worries me.”