While the COVID-19 crisis is upending everyone’s lives, Gen Z is experiencing the pandemic at a more formative time of life. However, tragedy is nothing new to Gen Z. The youngest generation experiencing the crisis has grown up in the shadow of many tragedies:
The oldest among Gen Z were 2 years old when Columbine happened. School was never a safe haven; it became a place of metal detectors and lockdown drills.Tweet
Many had started kindergarten just days before 9/11. Terrorism and war haven’t been just threats, as they were for children throughout the Cold War, they are real, and the fear is embedded in their psyche.Tweet
Most of Gen Z hadn’t even made it out of grade school before they experienced the Great Recession and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. Gen Z saw their families, or their friends lose their jobs, homes and livelihoods.Tweet
Now they are facing a challenge that no generation before them has known. Some are about to enter their adult years, and some are at ages that make this experience an indelible part of the way they view the world. They are likely to be permanently changed by it.
While some of these changes will be short term, but many will be long lasting. Here are some of the ways that Gen Z could be changed by COVID-19, after the immediate threat of the crisis subsides:
Increased Financial Anxiety
The closure of numerous restaurants, gyms, and stores has resulted in many layoffs and employees losing their jobs – and with unemployment claims in the U.S. reaching more than 3 million, young people are getting hit hard. According to a Harris Poll survey, service workers under 22-years-old are losing more work hours than any other demographic. Almost a third of Gen Z workers had been put on leave compared to only 13% of previous generations.
We can already predict that this generation will be financially impacted by the crisis long term – just as Millennials were impacted by the recession when they were coming of age. While it was initially predicted that Gen Z’s spending power would reach $34 billion this year, the sudden entrance of Coronavirus could heavily impact that. But beyond this year, the generation is likely to face difficulties with employment, savings, and reaching milestones at the same rate of that of previous generations.
Stressing out an Already Anxious Generation
While they’re already concerned about mass shootings and climate change – living through a pandemic is just another thing to add onto their already crowded plate of woes and worries. News has started to emerge that young adults make up a big percentage of who’s hospitalized. But fears surrounding contracting or spread the virus and giving it to friends or family are just the beginning of the mental health repercussions of this pandemic.
Studies show that half of Gen Z is afraid of getting Coronavirus themselves, but they’re even more afraid of loved ones getting sick (71%), being stuck at home for a long time (62%) and running out of supplies (54%) (Pulse, 2020).Tweet
Anxiety around isolation and financial strains – as many families struggle in the wake of the crisis is likely. As they age, Gen Z will likely be looking for escapes from their innate and now amplified stress, and their focus on mental health will probably intensify.