In Health We Trust: A Gen Z Perspective

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Inspired by recent research from Healthline Media, In Health We Trust highlights the resilience Americans showed in 2020, a year marked by disruption and change. In general, we adapted to new conditions and strove to maintain healthy lifestyles, and we actually became more trusting in our ability to heal.

But what impact did the year have on Generation Z — a generation known for being go-getters, shrewd consumers, and fiercely determined? Leveraging the two-part survey fielded in February and December 2020, let’s take a deep dive into the Gen Z perspective and how it shifted.

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Gen Z is coping more with mental health...

The pandemic brought mental health issues front and center for everyone in our country. But even before the pandemic, mental health issues impacted Gen Z more than any other generation. More than 4 in 10 Gen Z adults experienced anxiety, and 3 in 10 experienced depression pre-COVID-19. 

The tension and uncertainty of 2020 exacerbated a lot of what was already bubbling, and as of December 2020:

  • More than 8 in 10 Gen Z adults reported having felt anxious or depressed in the past few months as a result of the pandemic.

  • There was a 31% increase in the percentage who felt stressed (and Gen Z was the most stressed of all generations).

  • 41% cited a mental health condition or issue as a main source of stress, a 31% increase since February.

  • Loneliness remains a stress driver at higher levels (38%) in Gen Z, compared to other generations.

…but they’re not taking these challenges lying down

Learning about and managing mental health has been a top priority for Gen Z, and commands a lot of their attention. Brands and marketers take note: Don’t underestimate the power of this generation. They are ripe for education, help, and change.

  • Almost half of Gen Zers are interested in mental health topics (compared to 40% of millennials, 29% of Gen Xers, and 18% of baby boomers).

  • 13% have started seeing a mental health professional since the pandemic, more than any of their older counterparts.

  • 11% have purchased or plan to purchase meditation apps, an 83% increase since February 2020.

They are living for today

Despite strains on mental health and well-being, Gen Z remains tenacious and determined to make the most of the here and now. The data shows they are resilient, taking charge and embracing change. Maybe it’s all the meditation apps, but they are living in the present moment with a very YOLO attitude, both in terms of health and enjoyment:

  • They are 72% more likely to prioritize feeling good today over worrying about their future health, compared to February 2020.

  • They have an attitude of self-acceptance, with 43% saying it’s more important to be at peace with how they are now than try to change.

  • Still, they’re 25% more likely to use their free time for health improvements now than they were pre-pandemic.

They are reporting increased time spent on healthy, self-care activities such as cooking at home (40%), taking more time for themselves (36%), and starting a new hobby (34%). 

While 23% said they’ve been eating healthier and 19% have lost weight over the course of 2020, 50% say they choose food they enjoy over healthy diet options — a staggering 78% increase since early 2020.

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Shaping shopping

When it comes to health and wellness products, shopping is alive and well, and Gen Z’s habits are fueling the trends. 

Say hello to our early adopters

When asked in December 2020, 84% of Gen Z said they either purchased or planned to purchase some health and wellness product within 6 months. And when new products hit the market? Gen Z showed a 108% increase in being the first to try it out compared with before the pandemic.

As this generation accumulates more spending power, brands and marketers need to tune in to how their beliefs and perspectives may be upturning brand and product values. They are known to value authenticity in brands and like to engage with companies who share their values. They want brands and products that make a difference, and 51% of them will do their research (such as checking reviews) to make sure their purchases align with their beliefs.

Gen Z is more likely to purchase from companies who show they:
  • care for the environment (32%–57% more than general U.S. population)

  • provide stress relief or entertainment (28%–33% more than general U.S. population)

  • care for consumers’ mental and emotional health (25%–50% more than general U.S. population)

  • donate money to anti-racism and social justice initiatives (13%–80% more than general U.S. population)

  • donate money to research on COVID-19 vaccines (12%–88% more than general U.S. population)

Health and wellness spending then and now

Compared to February 2020, which product categories are Gen Z spending more or less on now?

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Marketers take note: Gen Z craves connection

Brands and marketers will be well served to target their marketing strategy and communications to Gen Z’s preferred channels. For this digitally native, social-driven group, it’s no surprise that 99% use social media platforms regularly, including YouTube (77%), Instagram (70%), and Snapchat (63%) topping the list. 

Since the pandemic, health topics have permeated everywhere. They’re part of our news feeds and daily conversation, and Gen Z is taking note. Compared to February 2020, Gen Z are more likely to notice health and wellness information on a daily or weekly basis across:

  • social media (+12%)

  • apps (+25%)

  • text alerts (+97%)

  • podcasts (+72%)

But, more doesn’t always mean more. With this onslaught of (often conflicting) health information, they’ve become less trusting of all of it. Gen Z is pragmatic, and trust is crucial if you want to win their business. Now, they’re not looking for more data — they’re looking for clarity, focus and guidance.

Spend time to connect with your users and understand their needs. Strive for clarity and honesty in your content, communications, and messaging. Pay attention to how your brand behaves. Tapping into the Gen Z perspective now will set you up for success in the future.

For more information on In Health We Trust or this Healthline Media study, please email us today or contact your Healthline Media representative.

Source: Healthline Media two-part online survey of US adults. Part one Feb 2020 n=1533, Part two Dec 2020 n=1533. Gen Z includes ages 18–23.

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches 92MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, June 2021). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.