Most young people in Europe don’t think life will ever return to the way it was pre-COVID. But not all changes have been bad—and there are some that they’re happy to keep…
This week, YPulse published the WE In-Between trend report, which goes deep into the COVID-created limbo that Gen Z and Millennials have found themselves in after two years of life under the pandemic—and the division that has emerged in how to move forward with their lives. While many are still craving the experiences they’ve been missing out on for so long, they’ve also adjusted in many ways to their new normal—and the majority agree that life will never go back to the way it was pre-COVID.
In this new reality, many have come to the conclusion that it’s time to get on with their lives within the pandemic, rather than waiting for it to be over. The number of young Europeans that are quarantining is at the lowest rate we’ve seen since we started tracking them last year, and they’re largely returning to manyof in-person activities they were doing before the pandemic. And though many say they miss their pre-pandemic lives, not all the changes to their routines have been bad. In fact, the majority agree that they don’t want to go back to their busier social schedules, and 53% also agree, “I like how my life is right now.”
Indeed, the pandemic forced young Europeans to re-evaluate the goals and aspirations that are important to them, and to make changes accordingly. While this has led to such massive shifts as The Great Resignation, which YPulse explored in our What’s Next For Work trend report, it’s also prompted some smaller changes that they want to keep in their lives going forward. In an open-end question, we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe “What’s one thing you started to do during the COVID-19 pandemic that you will continue to do five years from now?” Here’s what they had to say:
The Things They Want to Keep Doing After COVID
Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe
- Focus on my mental / physical health
- Play sports
- Be more cautious about COVID / other viruses
- Work in my current job / business
- Study / Learn new skills
- Create art / crafts
- Take on new hobbies
- Cook / bake at home
- Spend more time with family /friends
- Play video games
- Work from home
- Online shopping / delivery / curbside pickup
- Invest / trade
- Do outdoor activities
We should note that the top answer to this question was actually “nothing,” indicating that the pandemic didn’t cause all young people in WE to re-evaluate and reorient their lives. But removing that from the list, “focus on my mental/physical health” was by far the top answer (and actually a close second to “nothing”). Mental health has been a priority for Gen Z and Millennials for a while now, but the past two years have forced them to pay even closer attention to their inner lives as uncertainty and false hope caused by COVID put their mental wellness to the test. In our recent WE mental health report, we asked young Europeans what areas of their lives have been most negatively impacted by COVID, and the top response was their mental health, with 41% of 13-39-year-olds saying it took a hit. But the silver lining is that young Europeans have doubled down on their efforts to keep calm and carry on, and many have adopted practices to deal with their anxiety and burnout. When we asked what they’ve done to combat stress in the past year, their top answers were made a playlist, tried a new exercise routine, started a beauty / self-care activity, taken a mental health day, and tried a new diet. Mindfulness and meditation apps have also continued to boom in popularity, as have other calming content, such as podcasts, TV shows, and more. Mental wellness is also the main reason many young Europeans have left their jobs in the last year—our WE What’s Next For Work trend report found that 72% percent of young Europeans say they’ve experienced work-related burnout (e.g. mentally & physically exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed out, etc.), and 50% say they’ve changed jobs or are interested in changing jobs to combat stress/anxiety. And this commitment to their health won’t be disappearing any time soon.
While other changes they want to keep include ones directly related to the pandemic—such as being more cautious about germs, or the newfound convenience of ordering things online and working from home—young Europeans also adopted new hobbies and interests during the long months of quarantine that they want to keep up even if life gets back to normal—including the very practice of taking up these interests: study / learn new skills, create art / crafts, and take on new hobbies are all among their top answers. Indeed, learning has long been an important part of Gen Z and Millennials’ lives, a topic we explored in last year’s Self-Taught trend report, which dug into all the ways that young Europeans are learning outside the classroom. We found that over half say they’re often doing research to learn about something new, and the majority say they enjoy learning. And with so much extra time on their hands during the pandemic, many Gen Z and Millennials turned to the internet to learn new skills. During the first wave of lockdowns, for instance, new Duolingo users spiked across the world, with France seeing 107% more new users, and Spain 109%, and the U.K. a whopping 296%. In fact, 2020 saw 10% of adults in the U.K. begin learning a foreign language, and the country became one of Duolingo’s top five countries by the total number of daily learners. And with the help of trends on TikTok, crafty Gen Zs tried their hands at new arts and skills, including DIY tufted rugs, at-home tie-dyed sweats, and viral recipes.
The pandemic also prompted many young Europeans (and especially Millennials) to take up investing as the likes of NFTs and cryptocurrency boomed in popularity. Now it’s one of the skills they want to continue even after COVID passes—number 14 on their list is invest/trade, likely in part due to the financial instability brought on by the pandemic, which prompted many young Europeans to take their financial futures into their own hands.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full The In-Between trend report and data here.
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