Gen Z consumers in the UK feel under a lot of psychological pressure in the digital age and brands may have a role to play in assisting them, a new study suggests.

A survey of 2,000 Britons by media agency UM, as part of its ongoing research into stereotyping in media and advertising, found Gen Z (18-24 years olds) are more likely to feel such pressure than those older than them (75% v 63%).

More specifically, they are likely to worry about their mental health (65% v 46%), to fret about being seen as a success by other people (48% v 18%) and whether they are good enough (68% v 39%).

The optimism of youth is evident, however, in the few aspects of their lives where over-25s worry more than their younger counterparts: political instability, sustainability and physical health – three areas out of 26 considered by the survey.

The research also highlighted how much Gen Z believes it is being misjudged and stereotyped, with 71% of 18-24s saying that they feel young people are misunderstood.

They take issue with being portrayed in the media as ‘self-obsessed’, ‘lazy’ or ‘irresponsible’, but the tropes they find most offensive are that they are ‘unintelligent’ and ‘unambitious’.

At the same time, they display a degree of self-awareness and are conscious of their flaws, rating themselves as being significantly less ‘dependable’ and ‘reliable’ than the national average.

The study also showed that a quarter (25%) of Gen Z trust brands, a greater number than trust the government, the media, their Church, influencers, or social platforms.

“In a ‘post-truth’ society, it’s hard for young adults to anchor themselves to the narratives of politics, nation, or even faith,” said Sophia Durrani, managing partner, strategy at UM.

“Our research suggests many turn to brands as potent symbols of identity – they know what they stand for and they trust them.

“This means there’s a very real opportunity for marketers to empathise with younger audiences, to help them to manage the pressures and connect with them – but only as long as they do so in an authentic way.”

Sourced from UM; additional content by WARC staff