Social impact

Supporting Gen Z: How to tackle loneliness this festive season

A close up portrait photo
Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
December 5, 2023
Last updated
June 20, 2024

What this article covers

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In 60 seconds…

  • The darker December days, social media overload and chaotic festivities cause many young people to feel lonely over the Christmas period 
  • From offering financial support to providing educational resources and tools, brands need to encourage an open conversation with consumers to protect their mental health
  • 40% of Gen Z have received mental health advice online 

Ah, the festive period. A time to overindulge on cheese and crackers, battle through crowds at Christmas markets and small talk with distant relatives. It's the season for love, family and joy, with thousands of students across the world heading home to their families to celebrate (and get their mum to do a wash). But for some, the festive season isn't quite as straightforward.

The expectation to spend time with loved ones can lead many to feel isolated and lonely, and when combined with the dark days, seasonal sadness is at an all-time high.

In this blog, we'll be asking how Gen Z are feeling right now, exploring how they're battling the darker winter months and sharing how you, as brands and youth marketers, can help them out.

How are Gen Z feeling right now?

Last year, it was reported that 36% of people feel lonely all the time, with 61% of these being aged 16-25, and Voxburner+'s Gen Z's Mental Health Crisis report revealed 46% of Gen Z consider themselves to have a mental health condition. 5% of Gen Zers from the US admitting to feeling very low.

So, essentially, it's not looking great. But as is always the way with Gen Z, the answer (and often the problem) is online...

exchanging the christmas presents at home

Why might Gen Z be feeling lonely this festive season?

According to Andy Williams, it's the most wonderful time of the year, so why are some suffering from the winter blues and dreading the lonely festive nights?

  • They may not celebrate Christmas. 78% of Gen Zers from the UK and 95% from the US celebrate Christmas. For those who don't partake in Christmas, living in a country that majorly embraces the season can make it extra tough and alienating.
  • 'Twas a dark and stormy night... Christmas may be the season of fairy lights and glitter, but it also brings dark nights and colder, shorter days. Many people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and see their mental health take a dip during the winter months, and Gen Zers are no exception.

  • Rising cost of living. A huge 60% of Gen Z are concerned with their finances right now. Of those who celebrate Christmas in the UK, 83% think rising inflation will impact their Christmas spending.
  • Being away from family. Whilst many students will be catching the first train back home, it's more challenging for some. For those students who live overseas, time or finances may force them to stay in their university/college city.
  • Difficult family situations. Whether it's a disagreement in beliefs or differing lifestyles, condensed family time can bring many issues to the surface for some.
  • The pressure of social media. The online world is currently overwhelmed with wholesome, cute content. Whether it's visiting Christmas tree farms or drinking mulled wine at markets with significant others, it's easy to see why social media can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Gen Z, seasonal affective disorder and how to combat loneliness

As a generation of digital natives, it's perhaps unsurprising that 40% of Gen Z have received mental health advice online. It's a place where they can be open and honest with one another (and themselves), as well as making light of the issues that are grinding them down.

One of those issues is SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. According to Mind, SAD is a recognised type of depression that some experience during particular seasons of the year due to certain weathers or temperatures Whilst it can be experienced during the spring and summer months, for many, the winter season marks the start of the SAD season.

Gen Zers are smart: they know what's coming the second they take down their Halloween decorations. Darker days bring low energy, colder months make them want to stay in bed all day and anxiety is at an all time high. But now, instead of suffering in silence, they're taking to social media to share their tips and tricks for dealing with seasonal sadness.

Dipika Saggi, Marketing Director at Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), shared with us: “In a world where Gen Z is forever connected but finding it hard to make real connections there is a need to build better conversations around mental health and well-being… We need more services, more educated influencers to lead the conversation and an open dialogue to help Gen Z feel the hope that they deserve.”

How are Gen Z fighting seasonal affective disorder online?

  1. Romanticising the winter season. Always wanted to get into crocheting? Or just LOVE a bit of craft?! Well, now's the time according to Gen Z. 'Tis the season to start a new hobby, spend time with friends, bake some tasty Christmas treats, and, in true Gen Z fashion, visit a farmers' market. 
  2. Protect your mental health and wellbeing. Having a cold shower might sound like the last thing you'd want to do on a cold December morning, but for SAD experts, it's one of the greatest things you can do. Other tips include having a strong morning routine, taking supplements, staying on top of nutrition, and setting goals.
  3. Starting the conversation and raising awareness. Whether it's professionals taking to social media to share common SAD symptoms or TikTokers using the platform to share how they're feeling, by sharing their experiences, Gen Z are helping each other feel less alone this festive season.
Three teenage girls partying in a club.

How can brands best support Gen Z, long past the festive season?

Supporting Gen Z and protecting their mental health should be high on your priority list all year round - after all, having a deeper understanding of the issues young people are facing will help you better connect with them. Our data revealed that 64% of Gen Z believe brands should make mental health a part of their mission statement, whilst 66% would be more inclined to buy from a brand that donated a portion of its proceeds to mental health charities.

So, the million dollar question: How can brands best support Gen Z all year round?

Normalise the mental health conversation

It's important to be open and honest - in fact, 71% of Gen Z think brands should talk about mental health in their messaging.

Check in on your customers

This can be as simple as reading and replying to social media comments; show them the face and personality behind the brand and connection will naturally follow.

Champion DE&I in the workplace

Young people want to see themselves represented in your brand's marketing and workplace.

Provide help and resources

From financial support via student discounts to providing educational resources and tools, it's important to encourage an open conversation.

Three Gen Z friends laughing together

A final note from us: learn from the real experts (Gen Z) and be sure to take the time to look after yourself this festive season. It’s not always easy, so be sure to step outside and take some deep breaths before responding to that snide comment from your aunt…

Want more like this? Sign up to our Weekly Briefing for Gen Z trends, delivered straight to your inbox.

Affected by any of the issues discussed in this blog post? Check out the resources below:

  • Mind (Tips, tricks and advice on dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  • CALM(Offering help, advice and information to anyone who is struggling or in crisis)
  • Young Minds (A charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health)
  • The Jed Foundation(Youth mental health and suicide prevention a priority across the US)

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