EUROPE: Household mealtimes frequently involve some form of technology, whether television or smartphone, but, contrary to what one might expect, younger consumers are more likely to have a tech-free meal than the middle aged.

According to the Global Generational Lifestyles report from researcher Nielsen, which polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries, fewer than half (43%) of Europeans said their household mealtimes were technology-free.

That figure rose to 52% among the Silent Generation – those aged over 65 – but after them Gen Z (aged 15-20) were most likely to avoid technology at mealtimes. Some 46% did so, followed by Millennials (43%), while Gen X came in at 42% and Baby Boomers at 41%.

"Millennials may have the biggest reputation for being glued to their connected devices, but older respondents are more likely to be distracted in this way during mealtimes at home than their younger counterparts," said Terrie Brennan, evp/advertising solutions Europe, Nielsen.

"It's a sign that today's consumers are bucking yesterday's preconceived generational notions and, in fact, many older people are embracing a more technology-driven world," she added.

Nielsen contended that the report called into question other accepted wisdom about the habits of younger and older consumers.

Thus, for example, across Europe, the youngest and oldest generations – Generation Z and the Silent Generation – were equally as likely to cite newspaper websites (18%) as a preferred source of news.

And the youngest were only a little more likely than the oldest to cite TV news websites (16% vs 14%) and search engines (26% vs 23%).

But major – and expected – differences were apparent when it came to social media, where Generation Z (45%) was nearly six times as likely as the Silent Generation (8%) to cite social media as a preferred news source.

More evidence that Generation Z is not as obsessed by technology as some believe came in the area of leisure. The youngest generation was more likely to spend its spare time in contact with family and friends (29%), playing sports (24%) and reading (23%) than playing video games (20%).

"Just as older people are increasingly embracing technology, sizeable numbers of younger people are turning to more traditional pastimes," said Brennan.

"Yes, there are differences between the generations. But when it comes to using technology, in many ways it's remarkable how similar we are."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff