7 Key Gen Z Trends for 2022

by Josh Howarth - March 7, 2022

Gen Z is the largest generation in American history, currently making up 27% of the population in the U.S.

Being born between the years of 1997 and 2012, individuals in Gen Z are now between 10 and 25 years old. Many are now entering the full-time workforce and increasing their purchasing power.

How is this generation impacting the world? Here are seven Gen Z trends to watch in 2022 and beyond.

1. Driven by digital

Gen Z doesn’t know a time when the internet didn’t exist. They are “digital natives” in the truest sense of the term.

The stats prove this. More than 95% of Gen Zers own a smartphone, 83% own a laptop, and 78% own an internet-connected gaming console.

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Gen Zers rank Xbox as their favorite gaming console. The “Xbox Game Pass” offers users a Netflix-like experience for video gaming. Its popularity is soaring right now.

In fact, they’ve been exposed to tech from a young age, especially when compared to previous generations.

Older Millennials got their first cell phone at an average age of 20. Younger Millennials started at 16. Gen Zers had their own phones by the time they were 12.

Trends show that this generation is becoming more and more centered on tech.

One survey found that more than half of Gen Zers feel more insecure without their smartphone versus without their wallet.

Social media is a huge trend for this generation.

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Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are, by far, the most frequently used platforms.

One-quarter of Gen Zers spend five hours or more per day on TikTok.

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TikTok continues to soar in popularity among members of Generation Z.

However, as the members of Gen Z get older, experts predict Facebook may surge to be one of the top three social platforms.

It’s not just social media that has their attention.

Most Gen Zers also use their smartphones for video streaming, music, and podcasts.

The US Media Consumption Report from 2021 showed that 60% of Gen Zers stream music daily and 37% listen to podcasts weekly.

The average Gen Z individual spends 3.4 hours per day streaming videos.

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Searches for “YouTube TV” have remained on a fairly steady increase over the past five years.

It also reported that 44% of Gen Zers stream more than 3 hours of Netflix per day.

Only 20% of Gen Zers don’t have their own Netflix subscription.

2. Nostalgic for the 2000s

In recent months, Gen Zers have started bringing back trends from the early 2000s.

Marketing experts see this as a mix of old and new: Gen Z wants old products with a new focus on sustainability and social awareness.

Two “y2k” inspired hashtags have more than 1 million posts on Instagram.

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Y2K is a popular trend on Instagram.

Gen Zers are especially nostalgic for fashion from the 2000s.

In 2021, Juicy Couture brought back their iconic tracksuit from the 2000s.

Low-rise jeans are also making a huge comeback courtesy of Gen Zers.

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Pop culture and fashion from the 2000s are coming back, courtesy of Gen Z. Searches for “y2k aesthetic” are up more than 4,000%.

Even Ugg boots are back—but with a Gen Z twist.

One TikTok user cut off the top of an old pair of Ugg boots and stitched them into ankle boots. The TikTok video has more than 4.5 million views.

Demand for Ugg boots skyrocketed 525% in the last half of 2021.

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Gen Z is flaunting their new-again Uggs on social media. #uggs has more than 1 million posts on Instagram.

Depop, a fashion resale app, is incredibly popular among Gen Zers—90% of its users are younger than 26. “Vintage” items from the 2000s are exploding on the app.

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Depop saw a surge in the months following the pandemic and searches for the platform have remained high.

Gen Zers are taking their tech products back in time, too.

The “flip phone” hashtag has more than 296 million views on TikTok.

CASETiFY released iPhone cases that look like Blackberries, flip phones, and the original iPod.

Some are even ditching AirPods for wired headphones.

3. Distrust of government and other organizations

A Pew Research report showed that 70% of Gen Zers believe the government should do more to solve problems.

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This trend was only amplified by the pandemic.

A February 2021 study said 66% of Gen Zers disagree that the government has done its best to protect the country.

The same study reported that nearly 60% of this generation agreed that it’d be difficult to trust the government post-pandemic.

One research paper suggests this distrust could continue well into the future.

The Political Scar of Epidemics, published in mid-2020, suggested that individuals who experience an epidemic when they are between the ages of 18 and 25 are likely to have negative attitudes toward the government and elections for a long time after the epidemic is over.

This means individuals in the older segment of Gen Z are less likely to trust elections, less likely to have confidence in the government, and less likely to approve of political leaders.

This trend could have a large impact on the 2024 election.

In 2020, Millennials and Gen Zers made up 37% of the voting eligible population. In 2024, that number will jump to 44% with all the growth coming from members of Gen Z.

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Searches for the “2024 US presidential election” have already begun to increase.

The distrust of Gen Zers goes beyond politics.

They are unlikely to trust brands, too. Only 39% of Gen Z internet users trust a brand to keep their data safe.

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Consumers in Gen Z trust brands with their data much less than any other generation.

A Deloitte survey found that 24% of Gen Zers don’t trust business leaders, 30% don’t trust traditional media, and 49% don’t trust religious leaders.

This trend may continue as Gen Zers grow into adults, but some experts suggest distrust is just part of being a teenager.

Peter Adams, who leads an organization teaching kids about media literacy, recently said, “Trust in institutions is down across the board, but teens experience even more cynicism about institutions just as a function of their time of life.”

4. Embracing diversity and social justice

Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation ever.

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In the United States, nearly 40% of the Hispanic population belongs to Gen Z.

The Pew Research Center reports that 48% of Gen Zers are from racial or ethnic minorities.

This trend is amplified in certain locations.

For example, in the West, non-Hispanic whites make up only 40% of the Gen Z population. In the South, that number jumps to 46%.

Research shows that this generation is not only ethnically diverse themselves, but they believe in the benefit of increasing diversity in society as a whole.

One report showed 62% of Gen Zers believe that increasing diversity is good for society.

Members of Gen Z have also emphasized inclusion and social justice in recent years.

In one survey, Gen Z Republicans were much more likely than other Republicans to say that Blacks aren’t treated as fairly as whites in America today.

A poll run by Yubo, a social networking app, reported that 88% of Gen Zers feel that Blacks don’t receive equal treatment.

The Yubo poll also showed that 90% of Gen Zers support the Black Lives Matter movement.

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5. Emerging buying power

AdAge reports that Gen Z currently has $143 billion in direct buying power.

A few key financial trends have emerged in this generation.

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) services are wildly popular with Gen Z.

Predictions say that by the end of 2022, more than 44% of Gen Z digital buyers (over the age of 14) will have used a BNPL service at least once during the year.

During the peak holiday shopping days of 2021, 11% more Gen Zers used BNPL than in 2020.

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Buy Now, Pay Later platforms are becoming more mainstream, especially among Gen Zers. Search volume is up considerably in the past year.

Individuals in Gen Z report that talking to family and friends is the most common way they find out about new brands, companies, and products. However, YouTube ads are a close second.

The trend of shopping entirely online is not as popular with Gen Zers as it is with their older counterparts, the Millennials. Gen Zers are much more likely to shop in stores.

Gen Zers differ from other generations because they want to stand out, not fit in. Brands are an afterthought for this generation.

A 2021 survey commissioned by Vogue and GQ showed that the pandemic has made 60% of Gen Zers more conscious about the fashion items they buy.

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The survey showed that many of them are now shopping for higher-quality items than in the past.

It also reported that Gen Zers are 27% more likely than other generations to shop secondhand.

Individuals in Gen Z are also looking for retailers that value inclusion as much as they do.

In a survey from McKinsey, 48% of Gen Zers say they value brands that don’t classify their products as male or female.

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Fashion inclusion applies to size, gender, and race. Search volume has seen ups and downs in recent years but has increased 255% overall in the past five years.

6. Influencing the workplace

The oldest members of Gen Z are just now entering the full-time workforce for the first time, but by 2025, they’ll make up 27% of the global workforce.

Right now, they’re starting to lead the charge for several big changes.

The first is work-life balance.

Research shows that nearly 40% of Gen Zers put a large emphasis on work-life balance when choosing where to work.

Gen Zers are also likely to focus on empowering work culture and potential for growth with the company.

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Work culture and growth potential are the top two reasons Gen Z employees will stay with a company, according to Finances Online.

Gen Z is also demanding more workplace benefits. They want flexible hours, fully covered health insurance, free meals, and sizeable salary increases—just to name a few.

They want their employer to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Gym memberships, flexible spending accounts related to healthy activities, and sabbaticals are all trending as benefits now.

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Employee wellbeing has become a topic of focus in many organizations. Search volume is up nearly 900%.

Generation Z is one subset of employees that does not put a large emphasis on working remotely.

In one survey, 48% of respondents said they’d prefer a hybrid work environment. Only 30% wanted to work fully remotely.

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Searches for “hybrid work” surged in the latter half of 2020 and continue to trend upward.

In one survey, nearly half of Gen Zers said they’d like to own their own business.

Stats from Wonolo, an on-demand staffing platform, show the gig economy is growing among Generation Z. Their share of jobs on the platform grew by 14% between 2019 and 2021.

Lending Tree reports that 46% of Gen Zers over the age of 18 have a side hustle.

Nearly one-quarter of these individuals would not be able to pay their bills if they didn’t have that side hustle.

A few of the most popular spots in the gig economy for Gen Z workers are selling custom clothing, selling artistic goods on Etsy, and freelancing on Fiverr.

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Fiverr has become an incredibly popular site for Gen Zers who are hoping to earn income in the gig economy.

7. Rising mental health concerns

A 2021 survey from Deloitte found that 46% of Gen Zers feel stressed or anxious most or all of the time.

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Reports from McKinsey say Gen Zers have the least positive outlook on life, and individuals in this generation are two to three times more likely than other generations to have thought about or attempted suicide in the past year.

The cause of these mental health concerns varies.

One potential reason is the generation’s excessive use of technology—a condition that some mental health experts have termed “iDisorder.”

Social media, in particular, has been connected to worsening mental health among young people.

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The “digital wellbeing” of Gen Zers is a cause for concern. Search volume for this term has risen nearly 3,000% over the last five years.

In addition, the CDC has reported that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting challenges have “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions” among young people.

Stress in America 2020, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, reported that adults in Generation Z were “the most likely generation to say that their mental health has worsened compared with before the pandemic.”

Gen Z adults were also much more likely to report feeling isolated and not getting adequate emotional support.

In recent years, up to 75% of Gen Zers have reported being stressed out by the threat of gun violence and mass shootings.

Even with these unfortunate statistics, members of Generation Z seem to be more open to getting help and discussing mental health troubles.

Compared to other generations, they are more likely to receive treatment from a mental health professional.

In some ways, the stigma associated with mental health issues has also diminished in the last few years.

Various celebrities, many of them Gen Zers or Millennials, have talked publicly about their own mental health struggles.

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After the 2020 Olympics, Simone Biles openly shared her mental health struggles on social media.

In an effort to boost their mental health, self-care and holistic health have become popular among Gen Zers. They’re making healthier food choices, using more skin products, and abstaining from alcohol more often.

Conclusion

Generation Z is unlike any generation that’s come before them. They’re connected, they’re diverse, and they’re ready to make their opinions known.

But, with so many Gen Zers being under 18 years old, the future of this generation may change drastically in the coming years.

With their ever-increasing purchasing power and propensity to impact social issues, Generation Z is one we’ll all want to watch closely.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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