Mental health is at the forefront of Gen Z’s #wellbeing priorities, and rightfully so. With the backdrop of the last five years and the devastation of youth services in the last three, it’s no wonder they’re still struggling...
The Millennials among us can remember a time when mental health was rarely discussed. When feeling down was something to be endured quietly, without putting your problems on those around you. Thankfully, Zoomers don’t stand for that crap. Today, the conversation around mental health is more open than ever – something we should all be thankful for.
And they look to themselves for hope and improvement. According to our results, a massive 96% of Zoomers think mental health maintenance is just as important as physical exercise. It’s an encouraging statistic – as Zoomers know, mental, physical, emotional and social health don’t sit in silos but are all intricately interlinked. Armed with this knowledge, the majority of Gen Z (90%) are taking active steps to improve their all-round wellbeing.
Here’s where the conversation is currently at.
WALK IT OUT
Daily lockdown walks became a literal lifesaver for many. Now, with our freedom restored, over a third of our survey kept up some form of physical exercise as a way of keeping their heads level. What’s more, given its low barriers to entry and connection to the Great Outdoors, walking remained a popular past-time.
Conversely, a huge amount of women and a significant amount of men actually pointed to mental ill health as the biggest barrier to exercise. After all, when you feel down, often all you want to do is stay in bed. With evidence backing the beneficial impact of exercise on our mental health, perhaps physical and mental maintenance should be approached in tandem.
As a society we are slowly becoming more understanding, but this idea of the ‘perfect’ body is still prevalent. Despite the body positivity movement, there is a massive amount of pressure for Gen Z to look a certain way.
This has a huge impact on women, with 50% of those surveyed touting body consciousness and fear of judgement as some of the top reasons they don’t exercise. Men aren’t immune, either – a third of them say they too feel body conscious when exercising. This represents an opportunity to approach exercise in a different way. By focusing on feeling good and the physical benefits over aesthetics, we can drive a change. After all, what good is a six-pack if you feel crap?
The media image of Gen Z is of a generation moping about, whinging that they can’t afford to buy a house and that everyone older than them needs to get with the times. All valid points. But, it turns out that despite having the odds stacked against them, Gen Z might just be the most optimistic generation. Positivity, giving thanks and looking to the future are all skills consciously practised by Gen Z (just please don’t use the term ‘manifestation’). Zoomers know that a healthy, positive outlook is the best way to not only guard their mental health, but inspire change in others. However, they don’t use positivity as a denial tactic -“Everything will be fine, just be positive”. They give themselves permission to feel their emotions, tackle them and learn from them. “We thrive when we cry together,” Chelsea, 23. Self-care FTW.
A key aspect of self-care is allowing time to drift away from real world woes. Rest, relaxation and routine are key for Gen Z, and rightly so. As part of their expansive approach to health, sleep, and chill time alone are all vital for recuperation and regeneration.
Instead of doom-scrolling all day, Zoomers know the importance of taking time out with a book, or channelling mindfulness through activities like colouring or cleaning. Good old fashioned video gaming also plays a role in providing pure escapism, too. Especially so when it comes to open-world games like Animal Crossing or Fortnite.
When all is said and done, humans are social creatures. Just as gaming has become more social and reading has found a place on TikTok, the youth of today place time with friends IRL highly too. When it comes to mental health maintenance, socialising, people and relationships ranked extremely highly. Whether it’s meeting up for a coffee to talk it out or catching a spin class, Gen Z knows it’s great to get out and do things together.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR BRANDS:
A COMBINATION EFFORT:
Activations that can tackle multiple routes to health could be the great healer. Consider exercise that includes an intentional social element or self care practices paired with emotional support.
THE BIG CHILL:
Time to recoup is so important to this audience and if tactically executed could be the ideal remedy for stressed out term 3 students. Get onto campus, into study areas and give them a break - offer relief with something to raise a smile.
FLIP THE SCRIPT:
Break stigmas and be embraced by the masses. Get older generations on side, create judgement free spaces or simply shout loud with, “it’s ok not to be ok”.
HOW DO WE SEE THIS PLAYING OUT IRL?
THE RISE OF BIRD WATCHING &... OTHER SLOW HOBBIES
The appreciation for retiree hobbies has long outlasted the return to the rat race and is only growing in momentum. Train-spotting, hiking and bird-watching have been having their own cultural moment, generating luxury brand partnerships (Gucci x Francis Bourgeois) and a big surge of community clubs. In 2019, there was huge growth in under 30s hiking clubs, outnumbering those for over 40s and that was pre-pandemic! Flock Together, a London bird watching club making space for non-white hobby-ists, is taking social stance, forming community and connecting to the natural world in one fell swoop. It’s all about immersing yourself in nature and doing things for longer periods of time rather than the quick, do more, faster, move-on attitude encountered in the everyday.
THE READING RESURGENCE
According to the World Economic Forum, BookTok has become a big channel for driving sales of print books in what was a declining category. Over 825M books were sold in the US last year, the highest since records began in 2004. Creating a new generation of literary fanatics, BookTok has opened up the category from intellectual critiques to peer-to-peer enthusiasm. Its communities use novel (lol) ways to showcase their faves, giving synopses as if it’s a first hand experience from the creator or five second reviews. It is fascinating to watch as it directly changes the best-seller list and predicted publishing trends.
You can acess the full What Matters To Us 3 report here.