The coronavirus pandemic is currently the top issue of concern for people, companies and governments alike, but what are consumers most worried about and how is their behaviour changing? A new survey of more than 4,500 consumers in the US and UK provides useful insights.

Research firm GlobalWebIndex examined how consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are responding to the unnerving headlines and found that, while there are some differences between Americans and Brits, the biggest contrast is between the generations.

Jason Mander, chief research officer at GlobalWebIndex, outlined the findings in a blog post, revealing that more than 90% of consumers in both countries feel concerned about the spread of the disease.

But the strength of feeling varies significantly by age, with 96% of Gen Zs expressing concern, dropping to 90% of baby boomers. More starkly, almost 60% of Gen Zs and millennials are very or extremely concerned compared to just 40% of boomers.

And in another sign that baby boomers appear to be behaving more stoically, just three-quarters (75%) of this older generation are making changes to their daily lives compared to 90% of Gen Zs.

Overall, more than 80% of all those who took part in the survey – 2,310 in the US and 2,229 in the UK – say they have made at least one change to their daily lives as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Apart from the 6-in-10 who are now washing their hands more frequently, 4-in-10 are reading the news more often, 3-in-10 are trying to avoid touching public surfaces and 2-in-10 are altering their daily routines to avoid rush hour and crowded places.

At least a quarter are also checking social media more often to keep up-to-date, although this again varies between the generations.

For example, close to a third (30%) of millennials are checking social media compared to just 15% of baby boomers. The US also has a significant lead over the UK in terms of checking social media more frequently.

And perhaps because boomers rely less on social media for information, they are the most likely to know how to minimise the risks of infection and are also the least likely to believe certain urban myths.

Absolutely no baby boomers believe the notion that wearing a face mask definitely prevents infection compared to 14% of Gen Z and 12% of millennials, for instance.

One significant difference between consumers in the US and the UK is that about two-thirds of Brits believe that “most people recover from the diseases without special treatment” compared to under a third of Americans.

Elsewhere, the survey revealed that more than half of consumers think a global recession is likely, with just 1-in-10 thinking it unlikely, more than 60% are open to digital or virtual health appointments, and more than half (52%) of baby boomers and Gen X would favour the cancellations of public gatherings, such as sports events.

Sourced from GlobalWebIndex; additional content by WARC staff