Millennials have certainly garnered their fair share of the cultural spotlight, and yet the next generation in the wings — Generation Z — is poised to make significant impacts in terms of their likes, dislikes, how they live and in their views on health and wellness. Children age 18 and younger are already 74 million strong (according to U.S. Census figures) and Gen Z already makes up 23% of the U.S. population. As a cohort, Gen Z is already the same size as millennials and boomers, and has surpassed Gen X.
Our special report on Gen Z teens, ages 14-17, finds that Gen Z kids share the same reliance on and ease with technology as millennials, many of whom are their older brothers and sisters. Technology is central to Gen Z health and wellness practices, as it is with almost every other aspect of their lives, and they don’t hesitate to look up or ask their social networks for answers to health and wellness questions. Yet as teens, Gen Z’s are guided and strongly influenced by their parents, many of whom are Gen X, as well as their teachers and coaches at school. Ultimately, Gen Z age and life stage play a large role in their perceptions of what health and wellness means, where to learn about it, and how to practice it.
Gen Z teens are not dramatically different from adults in their definition of health and wellness and how to achieve it. Raised with the perception that health and wellness is about holistic balance, this idea is second nature to teens, who are quick to acknowledge how factors like their social lives, emotional health, sleep and stress affect their eating, exercise and physical health. Balance emerges as the overall goal of health and wellness for them as it does for other U.S. adults, though physical health remains most important. For teens, good health is indicated by both looking good and feeling good, and they have a sense that these two should come together.
Gen Z’s key health concerns are related to their life stage – getting enough sleep, managing stress, maintaining their grades, building self-esteem, and having time to socialize with family and friends. Stress is often top of mind for these notoriously over-scheduled teens – almost half are treating or preventing anxiety and stress, behind only skin problems and colds/flu, and ahead of weight issues. Exercise is a key stress management technique, and is in fact central to how teens manage a variety of health conditions, from weight issues to depression to sleep disorders. They know getting enough sleep is also key to stress management, and many teens take an active role in carving out time to get a good night’s rest.
Today’s teens also view exercise as an important part of a healthy lifestyle generally, but boys and girls tend to view exercise somewhat differently, in line with wider gender differences in exercise perceptions. Girls often see it as a way to build feelings of control over their body image and the guilt associated with eating, while boys are more interested in how exercise can help them build muscle and improve athletic performance. For both, however, technology is once again central to the experience of exercise, from inspiration to workout plans to entertainment.
Going forward, as more children are born in to Gen Z and as teens in this generation mature, marketers will need to remember that Gen Z kids are already highly proactive participants in health and wellness, so you’ll need to act as a trusted resource and engage them through product, packaging and messaging. Gen Z kids think a lot about being ‘balanced’, consequently in foods and beverages, remember to deliver on fresh and less processed distinctions. Finally, since Gen Z believe that “all” information is at their fingertips, be transparent
with ingredients and product sourcing.
As CEO of The Hartman Group, Demeritt drives the vision, strategy, operations and results-oriented culture for the company's associates as The Hartman Group furthers its offerings of tactical thinking, consumer and market intelligence, cultural competency and innovative intellectual capital to a global marketplace.
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