Though they once had a reputation for slacktivism, we’ve long said that Gen Z and Millennials are activated generations who fight for the causes that matter to them, and this year we found that this is the case in Western Europe, too. Like their North American counterparts, they’re deeply passionate about the causes they care about most and became even more involved with these issues during the pandemic. What’s more, these gens believe that brands have a responsibility to tackle these issues, and those that are following suit are being celebrated by young consumers. But despite this heightened activism from both themselves and brands, data from YPulse’s Local / Global Citizenship Report shows that young Europeans aren’t seeing much improvement: across the major issues their countries are facing, young Europeans say the majority are getting worse. Meanwhile, 67% say they think their country is changing for the worse, and 79% say they worry about the future of their country.
But what exactly were they the most concerned about in 2022? In our Local / Global Citizenship survey, we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe, “What do you think is the biggest problem your generation faces right now?” Here are their top 15 answers:
The Biggest Problems Their Generation Faces
Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe
- Climate change / Global warming / Environmental issues
- Job Opportunities / Unemployment
- Pandemic / COVID
- Wars / Conflicts
- Social Media
- Technology over-dependence / addiction
- Cost of living
- Acceptance / Tolerance / Respect of differences
- Lack of financial support / Inability to save
- Mental Health
Climate change is the biggest issue young Europeans were concerned about in 2022
YPulse has been tracking Gen Z and Millennials’ climate anxiety for a while now, and we’ve long known that these gens are factoring sustainability and environmental consciousness into their daily lives. In fact, our WE Sustainability report shows that the vast majority of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe are worried about climate change, and a full 80% say that climate change is an immediate threat to human life. Our WE Causes / Charity and Activism report also found that climate change is one of the top five issues they’re most passionate about. Young Europeans say climate change / global warming / environmental issues is the biggest problem their generation say is facing in 2022. As such, climate activism is going strong around the world, thanks in no small part to teen environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, who previously organized a massive in-person Global Climate Change strike to protest climate change inaction, and, at the start of COVID, encouraged her followers to move the protests online and to join a digital strike by posting photos of themselves using the hashtag #DigitalStrike or #ClimateStrikeOnline. More recently, many young climate activists made it to the COP27 United Nations summit to demand climate action from politicians.
Economic issues were also top-of-mind for these gens this year
The pandemic dealt a big blow to young consumers’ careers and financial stability, and many are still recovering. The Great Resignation is being fueled by young Europeans who are after more meaningful and fulfilling work, a topic we explored in-depth in our WE What’s Next for Work trend report. But even though this indicates that Gen Z and Millennials have some upper hand in the career arena, that doesn’t mean it’s all easy. After all, young Europeans (and young Britons, in particular) are facing a huge cost-of-living crisis: a 2021 study found that young Brits pay more than twice as much as older generations for living expenses, including rent, which created a difficult financial situation even before COVID. Young U.K. consumers were also the most likely to lose their jobs in 2020, and many fell behind financially. In fact, among U.K. consumers, this is the top issue they say their generation is facing now, taking a healthy lead over climate change—and three of their top five issues have to do with the economy.
YPulse’s research has found that the number of young people in Western Europe who believe they are currently in a recession has increased from 39% in September of 2022 to 44% in November. At the same time, the number who believe they are not going to have a recession has decreased from 16% to 11%. The majority (78%) also say that the economy / cost-of-living crisis will impact their holiday shopping budget this year. Clearly, concerns about the economy are only intensifying.
Young Europeans are concerned about tech and social media—especially Gen Z
Tech and social media have always been major parts of young people’s lives, but the pandemic increased their time spent on devices and social media in a big way—and in 2022 it became a real topic of concern for them. Though our WE Social Media Behavior Report shows that the majority of young Europeans agree that social media has a more positive impact on the world than negative, 42% say they wish social media didn’t exist, and nearly as many say that social media makes them feel worse about themselves / their lives. Meanwhile, our WE Mobile / App Behavior report shows that 60% of young Europeans say they’re addicted to their phones, and two-thirds say they wish they spent less time in front of screens. In 2022 we learned that social media and tech addiction are two of the biggest issues these gens say their generation is facing—and Gen Z is even more concerned about it: social media is the third biggest issue they say they’re facing, and tech addiction is the sixth, indicating that, despite the belief that they wouldn’t want it any other way, this digitally native generation may be somewhat apprehensive about their increasingly tech-first futures.