Voice of the Future

Listening to Gen Z on Covid-19, Mental Health, Education, Work, and Misinformation.

26 January 2021

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“I believe the pandemic has made people more aware of their mental health. Hopefully, this greater international focus will reduce stigmatisation and facilitate investment in mental health services.”

Vlada Shevelkova, 21Postgraduate in Public Health, University of Cambridge

Mental wellbeing

Do you feel you and your friends have had access to the support you need?

  • 50% answered ‘no’ – they do not feel they have had access to the support they need. 28% indicated ‘yes’, whilst 22% were unsure.

It is therefore crucial for policymakers and government officials to implement mental health support interventions in local communities (Townsend, 2020).

Do you think the voice of your generation has been heard in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • 71% of respondents answered ‘no’ they did not feel heard. 14% felt heard, and 15% were unsure.
  • 77% of women felt they were unheard in comparison to 61% of men.

Do you feel you and your friends have had access to the support you need?

  • 50% answered ‘no’ – they do not feel they have had access to the support they need. 28% indicated ‘yes’, whilst 22% were unsure.

It is therefore crucial for policymakers and government officials to implement mental health support interventions in local communities (Townsend, 2020).

Do you think the voice of your generation has been heard in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • 71% of respondents answered ‘no’ they did not feel heard. 14% felt heard, and 15% were unsure.
  • 77% of women felt they were unheard in comparison to 61% of men.

“The report evidences an endemic failure of trust and communication between public health authorities, education, and the emerging generations burdened with navigating a world of increasingly likely health emergences.”

Josh EntsmingerPhD Candidate at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Misinformation

The lower levels of trust in social media platforms indicate the need for public health information-related regulations to be established for information circulating on such media.

Is misinformation a critical challenge today?

  • 78% of the respondents agree strongly that misinformation is a challenge while 18% respondents agree, 3% disagreed, and 1% disagreed strongly.

Concerning COVID-19, how much do you trust what you read and see in the media and in social media?

  • Respondents trusted the BBC the most and the Sun the least.
  • LinkedIn is the most trusted social media channel, while TikTok is highly untrusted concerning information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my experience working with younger members of Generation Z I have witnessed an alarming lack of trust of news sources regarding the pandemic. This contributes to students’ increased anxiety and uncertainness about their futures. I believe therefore that there is scope for greater emphasis on public health education for school-age members of my generation.”

Tashi Zaffke, 21History Graduate and Trainee teacher in Exeter

Public health and education

Do you believe public health modules should be incorporated into more university courses?

  • 48% of the respondents said university courses must include more public health modules and 27% want public health modules included in all degree courses.
  • 11% thought that there are enough public health modules taught, and 1% said that these modules should be taught less.
  • The remaining respondents (13%) were unsure.

Public health modules are available under the umbrella of preventative medicine. Overall, the responses suggest these modules should be made more widely available.

“For a generation whose most formative years are being shaped by the instability and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, this report highlights pressing concerns for mental health and wellbeing, as well as the need for greater education, support and engagement with youth to determine the future of public health.”

Zoë Stockton, 23Human Sciences graduate, caseworker with NHS Healthy Minds

Public health at work

Do you agree companies should employ public health experts for the wellbeing of their employees?

  • A large number of responses agree (41%) or strongly agree (46%) that companies should employ public health experts to provide in-house public health expertise.
  • 11% disagreed and 3% strongly disagreed.

This highlights a role employers can play during the onset of epidemics or other health crises, mitigating effects by providing relevant information to employees. For such a strategy to be effective, the role of prospective company public health officers or consultants should be clearly defined.

“This timely report reflects diverse young people's concerns about public health during the pandemic, pointing towards the need for a much more context-specific and listening-focused approach to building trust in public health education. It starts an important conversation about whose voice matters when mental wellbeing, employment, and lack of trust in the media are at the top of Gen Z's agenda, opening up a range of important questions for further study.”

Dr Anna CarlileSenior Lecturer in Inclusive education. Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

Four areas for further analysis

Cov360 have identified:

MENTAL HEALTH

Further analysis of trends relating to mental health among young people and an initiative, led by young people, to empower and promote mental wellbeing among their peers.

EDUCATION

A research project that designs and integrates a public health program into the university, college, secondary and primary syllabus and then evaluates what effects this is having.

EMPLOYMENT

Collaborative research, training and policies designed to help employers understand what they can do to improve the wellbeing of their staff as well as the broader society’s wellbeing.

MISINFORMATION

Due to concerns raised about the low vaccine confidence levels and media distrust, there is a need to invest in a project that supports Gen-Z in their effort to combat false news.

“Gen -Z emphasised the importance of our charity. Nine of the survey participants have since volunteered and joined our team as trailblazers representing the voice of the future.”

Theo Richardson-GoolChief Executive Officer, Cov360

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      “The first lockdown felt somewhat novel - we saw a lot of young people appreciating the slowing down of life, learning new skills from their bedrooms and focusing on self-development and self-care. 73% were even feeling 'more positive' about their future. Fast forward 10 months and boredom has been overtaken by a genuine fear about their future and sadness at the missed opportunities and rites of passage. This is compounded by a constant media narrative that they are both to blame for the spread and will be the most systematically disadvantaged generation for years to come. As a result, and in support of one of the big topics raised in this report's findings, we're seeing a sharp rise in messaging fatigue and with the vaccine coming into play, the levels of misinformation and mistrust surrounding it. With the only constant being uncertainty, there is a genuine need to equip young people with the facts, the science and some hope that the future may not be as bleak as it's currently being painted. My hope is that young people will stay connected and get creative. I have no doubt we'll see a sharp rise in entrepreneurship and businesses started by Gen Z, as they take their futures into their own hands.”

      Alex GoatChief Executive of Livity, youth marketing agency