Forced anxiety: being young & single during lockdowns
Facing a crisis while having a lot of responsibilities may lead to exhaustion, but facing a crisis while young, single and alone can be an even greater psychological challenge, as it puts people at risk of losing their sense of purpose and their direction.
It is not surprising, in this context, that younger people had a tendency to feel even more anxious and less confident than older adults. In April 2020, 34% of those under 35 y.o. were feeling stressed, a higher proportion compared to only 28% of those over 35 y.o.
For one, a large proportion of these younger people had to face the isolation completely alone. Even more, for the majority of them it was the first time they had to face a widespread crisis as an adult, since many were too young to really feel or understand the immediate impact of the 2009 events at the time.
On top of these stressors, many young people found themselves unable to relax and vent the pressure through their usual and preferred means – travelling was banned, social outings were forbidden and even outdoor hobbies were discouraged. Boredom was a serious complain for 35% of the younger target, whereas among older adults it only scored 26%.
However, this is not to say that young adults saw no benefit from the crisis. On the contrary, this period of(self)imposed isolation and slowdown, although difficult, pushed them to overcome certain limitations and, overall, to grow in many aspects. For some it was a time of increased awareness of what makes them feel balanced and fulfilled – be it keeping connected to friends online, immersing themselves in book worlds or focusing on sports or a healthier diet.
Many saw it as a time of rediscovering things about themselves and their needs, to put their inner selves “in order", to discover new passions or abilities. Propelled by increased self-awareness and discovery, many young people used the time to upgrade themselves, to take true steps in the direction they felt was most meaningful for them – trying new things, (re)discovering how they can be better, and even starting all over again.
This “effervescence” of personal growth was very visible among the young and single. In April 2020, young singles were significantly more likely than older & family adults to be engaged in artistic endeavors(41% vs. 32%), to meditate (37% vs. 30%) and even to attend online classes to expand their horizons and learn something new (37% vs. 30%).
Not in the last, many of the younger adults had the opportunity to reflect more deeply on their relationships and social life, under the influence of loneliness generated by isolation (25% for singles, compared to only 15% for adults with families). For some, this experience has been the last push they needed towards deciding to bond more authentically with others, to commit to serious relationships or even to start considering the idea of building a family.
“Today I went to pick nettles and I made a smoothie out of them, adding banana, dates, water, chia seeds and soy protein powder.
Now I think it's more important than ever to have a strong immune system. So I started reading a book I bought a long time ago.
There is information in it that gives me a peace of mind and confidence that we can overcome any disease with a healthy lifestyle” (M, 30-35 y.o.)
The crisis brought significant changes in the mindset of people, and a different outlook on life, especially for many young adults.
As such, brands and companies targeting the young may find that their new potential consumer has emerged from the crisis with a newfound maturity and wisdom, more true to oneself’ and less likely to do things just for the sake of appearances.
Brand actions & strategies should be adapted to this evolution of young adults’ state of mind – providing support and inspiration to them as they forge a new, more mature and more responsible path ahead.
As employers, companies should also be aware of these changes, that will most likely impact the way young professionals relate to work. Doing things for (and with) passion and purpose has become more important than just having a job, and ideal job benefits are more likely to evolve towards what they discovered to be truly meaningful (for example having quality free time, rather than getting things like discounts or vouchers)
“Now I’m trying to understand online sales. I’m learning about SEO and Facebook. It’s hard and I feel like I don’t understand much yet, but this is the future. I feel like taking chemistry in High school. I’ve taken so many online classes this period, it can make up for another college.” (W, 35 y.o.)