A Defining Moment.

A note on Covid-19

We were trying to get our work done, really. We had every intention of sharing a Daily on CBD products for pets today. In general, we were going to provide you with examples of new and emerging innovations from businesses around the world that inspire us and help us think about how we can drive deeper engagement with Gen Z and Millennials, like we do every day. But as last week unfolded, we knew we were in a different place.

WHO’s categorization of Covid-19 as a global pandemic has the potential to be the defining cultural moment for today’s Gen Zs and Millennials. The recognition that life is short and tragedy doesn’t spare the young or famous has already been heightened in the collective consciousness since Kobe Bryant’s death. And now, Covid-19 is not only a public health issue that is raising concern about safety for all generations, but a political and financial event that is impacting all consumers at a deeply personal level.

As cultural researchers, we’re already considering and forming questions around the implications to come. What will this pandemic mean for a generation that is already reporting record levels of stress and anxiety? What will ‘social distancing’ mean for the generation that is already defining much of their social lives at a virtual distance? And how could this impact young generations’ attitudes and behaviors, both now and in the future?

We aren’t going to pretend we have all the answers. But this is what we know so far about how youth are reacting to the situation, based upon both long-term trends we have identified in the Cassandra Report® as well as research from last week among Trendsetting Gen Zs and Millennials harvested from our Cassandra Collective.


As we see in many arenas, there is polarization in terms of concerns about Covid-19. Roughly half of those interviewed aren’t particularly concerned; the other half are extremely worried (even “terrified,” as some respondents said), and there are very few in the middle. Paul, aged 34, comments: “Over 80% of the cases are mild and people don’t even realize they [are] sick. This is a media panic virus.” Reina, 21, says she is “definitely” concerned: “The more this spreads, the less effectively people will be treated. Shortage of respirators and other medical equipment is already an issue.”


We also see that there is a delineation between how youth will be impacted personally versus on a larger scale. Roman, 18, writes that he is not concerned for himself, but is quite worried about the world at large: “I am young and do not worry about my health in terms of coronavirus. It would be very unfortunate but I’m not afraid of it personally.” He then goes on to say that he is concerned that “the mass hysteria caused by it is extremely detrimental, but that so many people will be affected by this.” This juxtaposition between personal concerns versus a broader impact is something we’ve been watching across other areas within the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts.


In an environment characterized by polarization in the media, self-enforcing echo chambers, and broader institutional distrust, those in our Trendsetter community express a strong desire to get news about Covid-19 from a “trusted” source. Multiple respondents said they were going directly to the CDC (and to a lesser extent, WHO) to obtain information on Covid-19. Traditional news outlets and social media were also cited, but many participants echo the sentiment of Mariana, 27, who says: “I don’t 100% trust the news, as I feel the media has sensationalized this topic.”


Both Zs and Millennials report changes in terms of hand washing and other personal hygiene habits. Due to lifestage, Millennials are much more likely than Zs to be concerned about ‘panic buying.’ Ugonna, 27, sums up the sentiment of many: “It is upsetting to see all these toilet paper and hand sanitizer outages[s].” Behavioral changes are also polarized. Some, like Peter, aged 18, say: “I haven’t changed my life at all.” Other top reported behavioral shifts include cancelling travel, not going to the gym, and dining out less. Victor, 14, writes: “My parents won’t let me go anywhere with my friends. I want to scream at times, but [I] have been mostly playing video games online with my friends.”

This is certainly a fast-moving situation that we are continuing to monitor. If you have your own questions about how Covid-19 may be impacting the culture and mindset of Gen Zs and Millennials, please reach out to us by simply replying to this email. We’ll be back tomorrow with our regular scheduling.

These findings are from March 9-11, 2020.