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Gen Z and Millennials Continue Their Moves Into a “New Normal”

Most Gen Z and Millennials still think COVID is a threat—but they’re not staying home anymore…


  • The number of Gen Z and Millennials who are quarantining has continued to drop, even as COVID waves and fears continue
  • They are returning to pre-pandemic activities, especially shopping in-person 
  • But virtual events are still popular, and brands should plan for both

Last summer, Gen Z and Millennials were starting to relinquish their COVID anxiety and return to the experiences they missed out on during the peak of the pandemic. YPulse data showed that their engagement with many in-person events was quickly moving in a positive direction, but at that time, over half of young people still reported that they were quarantining, and most still weren’t comfortable with activities like going to the movies and even going to work in-person.

At the beginning of the year, YPulse’s The In-Between trend report explored how young people were cautiously moving forward with their lives despite continued COVID uncertainty. Our data showed that while fears about COVID are real (and really stressful), most Gen Z and Millennials are no longer keeping their lives on hold. They’re creating a new normal for themselves, and with the majority agreeing that we will never go back to life exactly the way it was pre-COVID, it’s understandable that they are no longer waiting for the pandemic to end to keep living. 

Gen Z and Millennials (like everyone else) are still facing headlines about COVID waves and dangers. The majority still believe COVID is a long way out from being over, but YPulse data shows that their embrace of a state of “new normal” has continued. While 46% say Coronavirus will no longer be a threat in 6 months, that number has declined from the 57% who said so last June. Meanwhile, 25% now believe it is no longer a threat at all, the highest number we’ve seen since we began asking. Our most recent Experiences report confirms their attitudes are continuing to shift toward comfort with their favorite pre-pandemic activities, and today we’re taking a look at our tracked data on their COVID attitudes and behaviors to see how much things have changed in 2022. 

YPulse has been asking 13-39-year-olds whether they’re quarantining because of Coronavirus (i.e. staying at home as much as possible, avoiding contact with others) since the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve seen the number who are avoiding the public significantly drop in the last year:

Quarantine numbers have dropped to half of last summer

Summer of 2021 began with more than half of young people saying they were continuing to quarantine. It’s no wonder it wasn’t the hot vaxx summer of their dreams. But today that number has dropped by half, with only 28% actively staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with others. As of January, 64% of 13-39-year-olds tell YPulse they are vaccinated or plan to be by the end of 2022, which, for many, means they feel significantly more safe returning to their favorite activities. 

The most significant drop in the number of Gen Z and Millennials quarantining this year occurred between February and March, when it went down by 11 points in just a month after a spike. Since then it has continued to steadily decline, and even if we see a fall spike in quarantining similar to the one we did in 2021, it would still be the minority of young people participating. Our data indicates it would take a significant turn of events to go back to large numbers of Gen Z and Millennials staying home, despite continued COVID fears.

The number of young people who are comfortable with in-person activities has climbed to it’s highest post-pandemic

As the number of Gen Z and Millennials quarantining continues to drop, their comfort with in-person activities continues to rise. The vast majority of young people tell YPulse they can’t wait to get back to the activities they did pre-COVID, and the number of young people comfortable with most in-person activities has jumped significantly since last June. In fact, compared to one year ago, the number who say they are comfortable with different in-person activities has increased ten points or more for most choices.   

The activity that they’re most likely to be comfortable with is shopping in-person. Though these gens were online shoppers before the pandemic, and certainly continue to be, they are taking their growing comfort levels to stores more than anywhere else. YPulse’s Shopping and Retail report shows that when given the choice to shop in-person or online, 62% of 13-39-year-olds say in general, they prefer to shop in-person now, a shift back to their pre-pandemic preference after several years of preferring online retail. 

The majority of young people are now comfortable with going to school, work, and movie theaters, a significant shift from 2021. Going out to eat has also seen a noteworthy uptick, with over two in three now saying they’re comfortable with restaurant visits.  

Still, there are some spaces the majority of young people are not comfortable in yet. In July, quarantine rates were the highest (27%) in big cities, and YPulse data shows young people may still be hesitant with traditionally crowded spaces. Bars are the place most 21-to-39-year-olds are not yet returning to, and while sporting events and music concerts are still lower on their list, they’re regaining popularity just as quickly. 

They don’t want virtual events to stop 

Even though they are attending in-person events, YPulse data also shows 77% of 13-39-year-olds are still interested in attending some kind of virtual event, whether it be a comedy show (25%), a cooking class (20%), or even a party (19%). What’s more, is that 21% would prefer a virtual experience over an in-person one entirely. The accessibility of virtual events is impossible to compete with. Any event that used to require lots of time, money, and travel can now be enjoyed at home, for both those who do and don’t want to return to crowds.

YPulse paid users can access the full The In-Between Trend report and data here. Pro users can access the full history of COVID data on the data dashboards.

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