There is a huge cultural change going on in this country, and across the world as a whole. The younger generation is distancing itself from their parents in all aspects of their lives. Political arguments are increasingly dominated by a divide between old and young. You need only look at the result of the recent Brexit vote and you’ll see that, as a general rule, opinions and priorities are split between generations.
This trend is spreading outside of the political sphere and manifesting itself in so many different ways. From the places that we choose to live to the way that we spend our leisure time, the younger generation is becoming the polar opposite of their parents. One of the most notable changes that you can see is a newfound focus on living a healthy lifestyle. But does being under 30 really mean that you live a healthier lifestyle?
Concerns about the way that our food is produced are actually fairly recent. When our parents were our age, they didn’t consider things like organic fruit and vegetables or meat consumption, but now, we all take a lot more time to understand just where our food comes from and how it is affecting our health. In a 2015 study that polled around 30,000 people, the results found that, overall, young people were far more concerned about eating right than their parents were. 41 per cent of them said that they would be willing to pay out more money for food that was better for their health. That’s a pretty big commitment to make for a generation that has less income in real terms than their parents. Prioritizing their health over their finances is a trend that millennials have adopted, that their parents would have shunned.
Sales of organic produce have increased by 25 per cent in the last few years and when asked, the customers that were buying these products overwhelmingly stated that they were doing it purely for health reasons.
There is a constant debate about obesity in young people and there doesn’t seem to be a solution on the horizon, but if this trend in healthy eating continues, perhaps the problem won’t escalate as much as we think it will.
You can see this trend in action when you look at the growing popularity of veganism. It used to be a very niche lifestyle choice that was only adopted by the most hardline environmentalists but it’s becoming more mainstream every day. In the last ten years, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 350 per cent. That’s a huge spike and 42 per cent of those new converts are aged between 15 and 34. But why the sudden jump? New research into processed meats has uncovered links with cancer which is one possible reason that young people are opting to steer clear of meat. Another key reason is the ethical concerns with the farming industry. The attitudes of the younger generation are generally more liberal so we’re more likely to be concerned about the mistreatment of animals, which is rife in factory farming.
As well as the ethical and health concerns, the image of veganism has a big impact on its popularity. It used to be a pretty unfashionable way of life but with so many mainstream celebrities adopting the diet and boasting of its benefits, people are more willing to get on board.
Smoking was cool when our parents were teenagers, but now it looks like it could be dying out. Of course, there are still thousands of smokers in this country, but more young people are opting to go to the Vapeshop to get e-cigarettes instead. The older generation is also adopting this practice, but millennials are more open to exploring new technology so the effects have been more significant. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of smokers in the UK dropped by 4 per cent. The biggest decrease of 6 per cent was amongst people aged 18 to 24. The same trend is happening in the US as well, but why?
Health concerns are an obvious one, of course. Our generation has grown up in a world with far more preventative measures than our parents ever had. There are warnings on packets and we can all remember the smoking ban coming in.
On top of that, there are ethical considerations. The primary reason for bringing the smoking ban in was to protect the people around you from second-hand smoke. The younger generation tends to be more interested in the concerns of the population as a whole, rather than just themselves, so we’re more inclined to agree that smoking around others is wrong.
It baffles me that there are still climate change deniers out there but unfortunately, there are, and some of them hold positions of great power. But there’s one thing that a lot of them have in common, they come from the older generation. Perhaps it’s because they won’t see the lasting effects, or perhaps they’re just too set in their ways, but the idea of changing the way that society operates to reduce the negative effects that we have on the environment just doesn’t seem that important to a lot of our parents.
Millennials are far more concerned with environmental issues and you can see this in a lot of their daily habits. I’ve already mentioned the increased popularity of veganism and it has roots in environmental concerns as well as the rest of the things that we discussed earlier. Although it isn’t mentioned all that often, even by environmental groups, modern agricultural practices are the single biggest contributor to climate change. By removing meat from your diet, you can do your part to reduce that.
Millennials also prioritize the environment when it comes to their shopping habits. Previous generations also put price over responsibility but our generation is the first one to flip that on its head. Goods that are manufactured in countries with labour laws that are ethically shaky are becoming less popular as consumers want to know exactly where their goods are coming from. The packaging that the products come in is also an important factor that people simply wouldn’t have thought about in the past. If the packaging isn’t recyclable, people will be put off buying it. Brand loyalty is important when it comes to selling things and millennials won’t build a relationship with any company that puts increasing profit before environmental concerns.
If we succeed in our fight against climate change, it’s likely that we’ll all end up healthier because the problems caused by pollution levels will be reduced.
While we might be a healthier generation in all of those other areas, when it comes to mental health, we aren’t. There is a mental health epidemic sweeping the entire generation and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better. Anxiety disorders are so common amongst young people for a few different reasons. One argument is that we are subjected to a lot more stresses than our parents were when they were our age. Even at school, the workload that children are expected to bear is ridiculous. The age of people suffering from mental health problems is dropping all the time and when they arise at an early age, it’s difficult to combat them unless they’re treated immediately. Once our education is done with, we have to deal with the minefield of a competitive job market, low wages, and extreme house prices. Add all of that up and it’s no wonder that stress-related mental health problems are on the rise.
The political and cultural ideals that millennials tend to hold are creating a new and exciting climate, but on top of that, they’re making us healthier as well.