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What Brands Need to Know About Young Europeans’ Current Outlook on Life

Jun 16 2022

Though their mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, young Europeans’ outlook on life is largely positive. Here’s how brands can help them be even happier…


TL;DR

  • Even after the uncertainty and disappointments brought on by the pandemic, most young Europeans are feeling happy and optimistic
  • Now, they’re focused on maintaining their mental health and cultivating positive mindsets—and brands can help

At the beginning of the year, YPulse dropped our trend report The In-Between, which went deep into the COVID-created limbo that Gen Z and Millennials found themselves in after two years of life under the pandemic. And though we knew that these years of uncertainty led these gens to experience high levels of burnout, anxiety, and overall disappointment as life milestones and future plans were delayed (then delayed again), our research also found that these gens were feeling, well, not so bad. When we asked how they felt going into 2022, “hopeful” and “optimistic” were their top feelings, and the majority said COVID inspired them to re-evaluate what’s important to them—and to make changes accordingly.

In the six months since, we’ve seen Gen Z and Millennials take this to heart—and push it to new levels. As we explored in our recent WE Main Character Energy trend report,  young people are taking a more intentional approach to life and prioritizing their own happiness. And, for some,  “main character energy,” or the idea of being the protagonist of their own lives, is the result of this. Now, #maincharacter and #maincharacterenergy are trending across social media (with 7 billion and 170 million views on TikTok, respectively), and young Europeans are using the mindset to be their best selves and chase their happiness.

But whether they’re tapping into the main character trend or not, how are they feeling about life right now? Here are 3 charts that show young Europeans’ overall outlook on life—and what this means for brands:

Most young Europeans are happy—but there’s room for improvement

YPulse has long said that Gen Z and Millennials are the most stressed out, anxious generations to date, making mental health a top priority for these young consumers. 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 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. Meanwhile, focusing on their mental health is the top thing they say they started doing during the pandemic that they want to keep doing. And it might be working: 55% of young Europeans tell us they’re happy, meaning that despite all the problems they’re facing, the majority say their lives are going pretty well.

The not-so-silver-lining is that nearly a quarter say they’re unhappy. But this is where brands can step in. Our mental health report found that 56% of young Europeans think brands should be encouraging open discussions about mental health, and 66% like it when brands make mental health a part of their marketing and messaging. And many brands are already successfully doing so, including BooHoo’s seven-day “self-love” plan, Nike’s Mind Sets platform, and ITV’s “Get Britian Talking” initiative.

But brands should keep in mind the fact that, even if these gens aren’t feeling happy at the moment, the majority do see the world through rose-colored glasses:

The majority are optimistic, even if things aren’t going their way

Mental health may be an ongoing struggle for these gens, but that doesn’t mean they see the worst in things. In fact, our research shows that 75% of young Europeans say “everything happens for a reason,” and nearly as many say they see the best in things, even those things are negative. For many, this is where main character energy and its offshoot mindsets come in. In an effort to remain positive and get what they want out of life, young people are “doing it for the plot” (a.k.a. seeing choices and events as steps toward the greater good), romanticizing their lives (or appreciating the small, everyday moments in their lives), and manifesting (or using the power of positive thinking to attain what they want in life). Overall, these mindsets show that Gen Z and Millennials are striving to become their best selves—even if right now they’re not feeling like they’ve attained it.

This means that brands should focus on positive depictions of mental health—and that they should lean into tools that support young peoples’ self-improvement journeys:

Young Europeans are works in progress—and brands can help shape them

If their commitment to improving their mental health and shifting their mindsets proves one thing, it’s that these gens are determined not to settle for things as they are. Instead, 69% see themselves as a “constantly evolving work in progress” and believe they can learn to do anything. Indeed, our WE Self-Taught trend research shows that the majority of young Europeans enjoy learning, and over half say they’re often doing research to learn about something new—including how to improve their mental health and maintain a positive mindset.

This is good news for brands. 68% of young Europeans tell YPulse they’re interested in learning about tips / skills in their industry from brands while over half are open to learning about things outside of a brand’s industry. What’s more, mental health is the second top skill they’re interested in learning about that traditional educational sources aren’t teaching, opening a major opportunity for brands to offer these gens the tools they need to keep evolving—and improve their overall outlook on life.

YPulse Western Europe users can access the full WE Main Character Energy trend report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe account? Find out more here.

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