Belgian Gen Z’s take on mental well-being, diversity, and finance

You’ve probably heard of them as post-Millennials, iGeneration, Zoomers or Gen(eration) Z… the fact is that this generation is too big to ignore. Today, Gen Z is the world’s largest generation cohort, accounting for one third of the global population. They have the fastest-growing disposable income, which is expected to reach $33 trillion over the next decade.

But what characterizes these Zoomers, and how are they different from the previous generations? In this blogpost based on insights from our ‘Ready for the Zoomers’ report, we dive into the topics of mental well-being, diversity, and finance, through the lens of Belgian Gen Z.

Gen Z x Mental well-being

Growing up against the backdrop of social upheaval, climate change, and a global health crisis, Gen Z is a generation that struggles with mental well-being. While everyone experiences a certain degree of stress, Zoomers are leading the charts as most stressed-out generation. In Belgium, 51% of Gen Z feel stressed, compared to 46% of Gen Y, 43% of Gen X, and 30% of baby boomers. Their main stressors are their job/studies (53%), followed by their mental health (29%), and comparing themselves to others (29%) – the latter hinting to the impact of social media. With platforms like Instagram and TikTok an inherent part of their lives, the pressure on looks (67%) and external expectations (19%) only adds to Gen Z’s stress levels. The result is a ‘confidence crisis’, with 52% of Gen Z indicating to often lack self-assurance. Yet, this ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ generation does not shy away from talking about their struggles. They are all about dropping taboos and raising awareness for mental health.

Gen Z _Dove

Gen Z’s focus on mental well-being can inspire brands to take on the role of life coach, supporting youngsters in prioritizing their mental health and encouraging discussions about the topic.Beauty brand Dove, for instance, set up a campaign to help young people detoxify their social-media feeds. In their Dove Self-Esteem Project, the brand presents a four-step guide to talk to youngsters about toxic beauty advice. Parents are encouraged to prep by getting familiar with social media first and ‘chat’ with their children. Next, it’s about detoxing their feed and following accounts for building self-esteem. A final step focuses on repeating, by talking to other parents, guardians and mentors. Today, the Dove Self-Esteem Project is the world’s largest provider of body-confidence education globally, reaching more than 82 million young people across 150 countries to date through initiatives like the #DetoxYourFeed campaign.

Gen Z x Diversity

Next to mental well-being, diversity is becoming a hallmark of this generation. Dedicated to creating a better and more diverse future for the next generations, Gen Z uses online channels to fight injustice. While boomers protested with sit-ins and picket signs, Gen Z is clicking for change. To amplify this generation’s voices, charity organization 11.11.11 recently started up the Instagram page weare11overs, focusing on one key message: lovers are the best fighters. It’s a digital platform by and for youngsters to address societal issues. This community of changemakers wants to inspire others through love and digital activism. More than any other generation, Belgian Gen Zers want to tackle social inequalities, their priorities being global issues such as poverty (44%), racism (39%), global warming & climate change (35%), the suppression and abuse of women (23%), and LGBTQIA+ rights (13%).

Diverse models

This focus on tackling social injustice to create a more diverse and inclusive world is also reflected in this generation’s expectations towards brands, with 43% of Belgian Gen Zers wanting brands to challenge social issues, and this beyond the short term. Brands that try to jump the bandwagon with one-off actions risk being called out for green-washing or rainbow-washing. Lifestyle and fashion photographer Morgan Gielen helps brands to install such long-lasting changes by supporting them in showing a more diverse world in their campaigns and brand communications. Her brand ‘No Babes’ is a collective that questions taboos in creative ways and wants to give a voice to people that are often kept small by the current ideals within society. The collective recently launched its own agency specialized in redefining beauty and inclusion in the fashion and lifestyle sector. By working with truly diverse models and creatives, ‘No babes’ wants to challenge brands’ traditional media campaigns.

Gen Z x Finance

Growing up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and against the backdrop of the COVID-19 recession, Gen Z wants to write its own money rules. In fact, 50% of Belgian Gen Z would like to start their own business, taking their future in their own hands. Yet unlike Millennials, they are driven by passion rather than achievement. Flirting with TikTok and YouTube algorithms, this generation turns their social game into a business plan in no time. But these post-Millennials also educate themselves in financial planning and are eager to put their money to work. Belgian Zoomers are the leading generation when it comes to penetration of investments, with almost 2 in 3 having invested money in the past year. While more traditional products like stocks and education funds take up the biggest share in their investment portfolio, Gen Z sees potential in art, luxury and sports fashion, and in new investment products such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs. In fact, 22% of Gen Z believe NFTs will increasingly replace physical artwork, and 32% would even like to be paid or get an allowance in cryptocurrencies. To educate themselves on financial planning and/or investing, Belgian Zoomers do not follow expensive business courses, but rather self-educate online. For example, by following influencers, aka fin-fluencers, on social media for financial advice.

Gen Z Rise app

Gen Z expects brands to support them in building financial resilience by providing accessible and actionable advice. This is exactly what Rise – a money app for teens, managed by parents – does. The brand’s mission is to create a financially savvy generation – not by telling them what to do, but by helping them to learn by themselves in a safe environment. The brand’s key philosophy is ‘learning by doing’, encouraging teens to make decisions on whether to spend, save or even invest, with the goal of making them financially responsible and resilient. With no debt facilities in place, nor the ability to overdraw accounts and the option for parents to jump in, Rise provides an environment that encourages experimentation with a limited risk.

This blogpost is based on three articles for UBA Belgium. Curious for more? You can read the full articles in French or Dutch here: Gen Z & Mental well-being, Gen Z & Diversity, Gen Z & Finance.

Want to explore how your brand can connect with this woke consumer? Discover what our Gen Z research toolbox and expert power can do for your brand!

Ready for the Zoomers - Gen Z report

Ready for the Zoomers?

Gen Z are the digitally native generation: social-media-literate, always-on and hyper-informed. With many Gen Zers coming of age during the pandemic, the past two years put a mark on their lives and outlook on the future. In this report, we shed a light on what makes Gen Z different from the generations before them and what they expect from brands.

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