Reasons to feel positive about COVID-19 restrictions when you’re GenZ

COVID-19, localised lockdowns, winter, rising infection rates: Is there anything to feel cheerful about when faced with such uncertainly and no end in sight? It turns out that not everything has to be doom and gloom.

A new report published by researchers on the ASPIRES project examined the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on 20-21-year-old post millennials in England. It found that “GenZ, arguably the most digitally connected generation, were negatively impacted by the lockdown, missing out on what was meant to be the “best time of their lives”.

While this conclusion is certainly not positive – and is even cause for concern –, 56% of the young people interviewed for the study did, however, identify positive outcomes to the 2020 lockdown.

1) The pause in work or study provided some young people with time to reflect, “put things in perspective”, re-think life and feel grateful for what they have.
2) A number of young people used the lockdown as an opportunity to exercise more and improve their health, learn new things (such as musical instruments) and develop skills or hobbies.
3) Lockdown provided a number of young people, who described their lives as exhausting and hectic prior to the pandemic, with the chance “have a break”.
4) Some managed to save money during lockdown, either from not spending on commuting or going out, or from doing additional paid work in supermarkets.
5) Several young people felt lockdown had helped to improve existing relationships with friends, family and work colleagues.
6) All of the interviewees who were in higher education found that the new practice of recording lectures was highly beneficial for their learning and would like this to continue as normal practice in the future.
7) For some, the pandemic underlined the importance and value of certain careers for society, such as teaching, biochemistry and medicine.
8) Many spoke about their hopes that the pandemic will lead to societal change, reducing global environmental damage and improving social equity, particularly in terms of transforming systemic racism and valuing Black lives.

Of course, we cannot ignore the negative impacts highlighted by this report, but its recommendations for policy and practice to support GenZ higher education students could – if implemented – be hugely advantageous for all. Recommendations include greater and easier access to mental health services, addressing inconsistencies in university education, and offering high quality and effective careers support, advice and guidance.

GenZ youths have been identified as the “first true digital natives” and are “on track to be the most diverse, best-educated generation yet”. Let’s focus on the positives of this pandemic and work together to bring about real, effectual change for GenZ.