Generation Covid: how the pandemic is shaping Gen Z’s attitudes towards health

Woman lifting weights

Reputable for being the most diverse generation to date, could Gen Z be the most health conscious, too? We explore how the Coronavirus is influencing Gen Z’s attitudes towards their health.

More of today’s young people have already shown signs of being a health conscious group. Now, having experienced a global health crisis during their formative years, practicing healthy habits in their everyday lives could be on Gen Z’s radar more than we realize.

Health concerns in the US: an overview

Common health problems in the US such as diabetes and obesity had already reached worrying levels across most age groups before the threat of Covid-19 was thrown into the mix. Data from the American Cancer Society reveals that 1 in 3 American adults are obese, with a further 1 in 3 carrying excess weight. Type 2 diabetes also affects around 34 million people in the US, triggering a rise in heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and strokes. 

spoonful of sugar

Covid-19 has escalated these wide-scale issues even further by posing a larger threat to those with underlying conditions. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed that hospitalizations in the US were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher among those with reported pre-existing health conditions. Obese people were also twice as more likely to be hospitalized and 50% more likely to die from coronavirus, compared to those sitting within a healthy weight bracket.

Even though these health concerns aren’t specific to younger demographics, it’s impossible for Gen Zs to ignore the country-wide health crisis – and its impact on their families and communities.

How has the pandemic impacted Gen Z’s health?

With age on their side, Gen Z was one of the least physically affected age groups at the peak of the virus. But extreme lifestyle changes had a knock-on effect on their health and wellbeing. For students, school and college timetables were heavily disrupted and social events canceled or limited – a necessary precaution that came as a huge disappointment for young people wanting to live their best lives as they emerge into early adulthood.

The temporary removal of on-campus learning, coupled with social restrictions and limited access to entertainment venues, understandably made it difficult for Gen Z to stay motivated. 61% of US students told us they have been exercising less because of Covid-19, whilst 60% revealed they had been eating less healthily for the same reason. The pandemic also took a toll on students’ mental health, with 68% saying it made them feel anxious or depressed. During lockdown, 68% said they felt stressed, 58% bored, and 50% isolated.

Boy sits working on his laptop

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association, three-quarters of those aged between 18-23 worry that their health will impact their life experiences. Whilst Covid-19 hasn’t impinged on the younger generation’s health as severely as their older counterparts, Gen Z’s eyes have certainly been opened to the importance of practicing a healthy lifestyle more so than ever before. It comes as no surprise that this young demographic are not expecting, nor looking to go back to life as they knew it before Covid-19 existed.

Emerging health trends in student culture

With a vaccination program now rolling out in the US under President Biden, 2021 looks to be a turning point and a chance for Gen Z to focus on their futures, alongside living well in the present. 

US students have been at the heart of some major health realizations over the last few years. As such, young people are drinking less alcohol, smoking less tobacco and generally dedicating less of their time to party culture, in favor of other forms of entertainment like festivals and concerts. More Gen Zs are also opting to make ethical choices by reducing their meat intake and shopping organic produce where possible.

Although the pandemic has certainly spurred things along, this behavior towards health and wellbeing has actually been growing for some time, due to the more medically advanced society Gen Z has grown up in. Campaigns surrounding the negative effects of smoking and processed foods have been circulating throughout their youth. Older Gen Zs were also the kids who thought drinking too much Sunny D would turn them yellow – a clever ploy by parents, no doubt. Now, as part of the so-called ‘Generation Covid’, Gen Zs are in the process of redefining their normal, and brands should definitely consider this when conducting their marketing strategy.

Where do brands fit in?

For Gen Zs, maintaining good health and wellbeing is a high priority going forward. We found that 75% of 16-24-year-olds made some form of health and fitness-related new year’s resolution, such as eating more healthily or going to the gym more regularly. Plus, when asked what they were most looking forward to post-lockdown, 60% said taking part in sports or going to the gym (fitness brands, here’s looking at you).

Whilst things are looking up nationwide where Covid-19 is concerned, it remains important for brands to be sensitive and considerate of those students still feeling anxious and isolated. Offering motivation in the form of student discounts could be just the ticket for those looking to fulfill their resolutions of getting fitter and healthier for 2021, all while boosting their mental wellbeing at the same time.

Find out more about Gen Z’s new year resolutions across fitness, productivity, ethics and more by downloading our New Year, New Habits guide.

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