“How’s lockdown?” – Some insights from our check-in with UK students

There’s no question that lockdown is taking its toll on all demographics. But how are students coping? We checked in to find out what’s getting them through, and what they’re looking forward to post-lockdown. 

Familiarity is key in lockdown three

Back in the first lockdown, social media was awash with COVID-safe outdoor activities, fresh recipes and inspiring home-based hobbies. Almost a year later in lockdown 3.0, students are reverting to the activities that bring them the most comfort. 70% say they’re binging TV shows or films, compared to just 25% who are trying out a new hobby and 36% who are spending time outdoors. What’s more, we’ve noticed that binge-watching has created a few shopping trends of its own.

Of course, this is partially down to the season. The first lockdown coincided with warmer weather, and curling up in front of Netflix is much more winter-friendly than a trip to the park. But it’s fair to deduce that morale is slightly lower this time around, and students are gravitating more towards quick wins and comfort activities.

 

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Gen Zs are digital natives, so it will come as no surprise that they’ve been quick to adapt to doing some of their favourite activities digitally. 60% have been chatting with friends online to pass those lockdown hours, and 60% are also buying themselves treats. Remember, UK students have fairly stable incomes – 94% of those eligible have a student loan, and with fewer opportunities to spend on in-person activities, they have more scope to pick up online treats.

No rulebreakers, please

Throughout the pandemic, young people have been scapegoated for breaking or bending lockdown rules. But the picture at most UK universities is not one of mass gatherings and wild parties. Just 7% of students say that it doesn’t bother them when people break the rules, and while 38% okay with occasional rule-bending, the majority (56%) are in agreement that any rule-breaking is completely wrong.

While students are certainly not sceptical about the realities of COVID-19 – their generation has been particularly vocal about combatting vaccine hesitancy on social media – it’s likely that they are sceptical about some of the rules themselves.

 

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When we checked in with our users after the tiered lockdown system was introduced towards the end of last year, many felt that the government was misguided in how it had chosen to combat the pandemic. 58% of tier 2 students and 75% of tier 3 students felt the government was targeting their cities because of the high populations of students within them. This dip in confidence in the government’s decisions could point to why some students are opting to use their own judgement and occasionally bend the rules. 

The aftermath of COVID

There is one key difference between this lockdown and the initial one – there is an end in sight. At the time of writing, almost 19% of the UK population has received the first dose of a vaccine. And while Gen Zs will likely be last in line for a jab, they can still start to tentatively plan ahead. 

Surprisingly, the thing that students said they’re most looking forward to post-lockdown is eating out at restaurants. This came before higher-octane activities, such as live events and holidays – but there are a couple of reasons why.

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Students likely already have some experience of eating out during the pandemic, due to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme of last summer. This gave them the chance to visualise how this might work with some COVID restrictions still in place.

It’s also worth noting that Gen Zs are a relatively anxious generation – the prospect of a live event might not seem so manageable right now, but a trip to a restaurant fits in with a more gradual return to normality.

 

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That said, going on holiday is number two on students’ lists. The winter months are usually prime time for planning summer activities, and varying reports of “vaccine passports” are making the prospect of overseas travel seem a little more real each day. Brands working within this space should take note.

Gen Z students are tentatively planning their summer spending – and a lot of it will stem from the April Loan Drop. Make sure your brand is prepared for it.