Generations Differ in Attitude, but All Show Consumption Potential

Generations Differ in Attitude, but All Show Consumption Potential

Staying Fit and Healthy is a Top Priority for 79% of Baby Boomers
Two out of Five Generation X Consumers Say Online Shopping is a Top Spare-Time Activity

A new global Nielsen study discovered that while Millennials and Generation Z consumers are well adapted to the digital age, they are also surprisingly traditional in certain aspects relating to their aspirations, entertainment pursuits and media consumption. The Nielsen Global Generational Lifestyles Survey polled online respondents in China and over 60 other countries to better understand how global consumer sentiment differs across life stage. For the purposes of this study, respondents are segmented into four life-stage classifications: Generation Z (15 – 20 years old), Millennials (21 – 34 years old), Generation X (35 – 49 years old), and Baby Boomers (50+ years old).

The study examined how age influences how consumers think, what they like to do and how they spend. Today’s consumers are bucking yesterday’s preconceived generational notions. In fact, many older people are embracing a more technology-driven world, and younger people still hold many traditional values. Yet for all of our differences, in many ways, it’s remarkable how similar we are no matter the age.


The advent of e-commerce, a wide-array of digital entertainment and the ever presence of mobile internet have led us to often view younger generations as hyper connected and continually immersed in the digital world. However, when asked about several aspects of their daily life, younger respondents painted a slightly more traditional view than the digital stereotype.

In response to their top spare-time activities, younger generations said that listening to music was their number one activity with 37% of Generation Z and 30% Millennials listing it as their top choice. Somewhat surprisingly, music was followed by reading (36%) as the second most popular activity for Generation Z respondents. Watching TV (27%) and spending time with friends and family (27%) came in second for Millennials.

On the other end of the spectrum, middle aged generations were more likely to mention activities that require disposable income and more free time. Respondents from Generation X mentioned shopping online (40%) and travel (39%) as their top two preferred activities.

“As middle to older generations generally have higher levels of disposable income and perhaps have more free time due to career success or being newly retired, it makes sense that they are now taking the chance to spend and travel,” said Kiki Fan, Managing Director of Nielsen China. “I think we’ll see that not only does this imply further opportunity within middle aged consumers, but also that Millennials too will increase their spending power in the coming years.”


When it comes to getting the news, TV and search engine sites have broad appeal for the young and old alike. Not surprisingly, younger generations tend to go online for their news with 54% of Millennials choosing to visit search engine sites, however TV is still a major source at 48%. The majority (71%) of Baby Boomers turn to TV for their news, but these consumers are no strangers to the internet, with 54% turning to search engine news sites in order to stay up to date.

Technology is certainly changing how Chinese consumers are getting their information, but are consumers able to put the screens down when it’s time for family? The survey showed that consumers are indeed still staying traditional when it comes to spending meal time at home. 80% of Millennials and 88% of Generation Z respondents say that mealtimes in their households are technology free. Generation X consumers had a similar response at 87%.

While meals at home appear to be mostly uninterrupted by technology, regardless of age, younger generations are much more likely to eat with their friends. 13% of Generation Z and 7% of Millennials said that most of their dinner meals were shared with friends, which is in sharp contrast to respondents aged 35 and above, none of which said they share the majority of meals with friends.


When asked about aspiration for the future, respondents’ focus shifted from wealth to health as they aged. Making money is a top priority among Generation Z (46%) and Millennials (43%) while much less so for older respondents. Staying fit and healthy was the number one priority for Millennials (48%) but even more so for Baby Boomers (79%).

Family oriented goals like getting married, having children and buying a house are still relevant for many Generation Z and Millennial respondents. About one-in-five Generation Z and Millennial respondents listed buying a house (19% and 16%, respectively) or getting married (13% and 13%, respectively) as one of their top aspirations. Somewhat surprisingly, having children is a priority that was not frequently mentioned. Only 4% of Generation Z and 7% of Millennials listed having a baby as a top priority.


In terms of employment situation, the findings of the study suggest that Chinese consumers have a positive outlook on their job prospects. More than half of respondents aged less than 35 years (55%), Generation X (55%) and Baby Boomers (78%) are satisfied with their occupations and career field. Over half of Generation X (53%) and Baby Boomers (67%) are also satisfied with work environment, while the respondents under the age of 35 are slightly less satisfied (47%). Job satisfaction is positive overall and increases with age, as consumers move up in the workforce and gain spending power.

Job loyalty, however, may be a thing of the past. Respondents under the age of 35 are much more likely to change jobs. 37% say they plan to leave their current job within two years, compared to only 7% of respondents aged 35-50 years. Only 26% of consumers under 35 say they plan to stay in their current job more than five years, which is in stark contrast to Generation X respondents, of whom more than two out of three (70%) say they intend to spend more than five years with their current employer. With increased job switching, we’re likely also to see consumer find more suitable careers, even higher job satisfaction and the rising salaries that come with motivated employees. This all points to even higher consumption power as younger generations make their way in the workforce.

“We’ve had very positive expectations on employment over the past several years from consumers in China, and on top of that, income levels continue to rise. So essentially what we are seeing are confident, middle class consumers who are looking to spend in order to improve the quality of life for their families and for themselves,” noted Fan.

Considering all of the variables affecting China over the years, it’s impressive to see that many consumers still hold onto traditional values and attitudes, while also balancing the fast-paced development of China’s digital revolution. Overall, the survey suggests that middle aged generations will remain as China’s economic backbone, while older generations pass traditional values to younger, tech savvy consumers as they pave the way for China’s future.


The Nielsen Global Survey of Generational Attitudes was conducted Feb. 23 – March 13, 2015 and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample includes Internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion.


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content — video, audio and text — is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance.  Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit