Hunter French

The Pandemic Has Heightened Young People’s Dedication to Their Health

But it turns out their main concern is not the virus itself. 

This research is powered by the VICE Media Group audience. Using our websites and social channels, we invited the VICE, Refinery29, and i-D audiences to take an online survey in June 2020. We spoke to more than 4,000 people in more than 30 countries around the world. The majority of respondents were 16 to 39 years old.

How do you take care of your health and wellness during something so new and uncertain as a global pandemic? We asked readers of VICE Media properties around the world this very question. We found that in the midst of this global crisis, people are more concerned than ever with all elements of their health and wellness, with a doubling-down of priorities around emotional health in particular. Responses to our survey suggest that people are turning to simple, incremental ways to take care of their mental, physical, and medical health—methods that are within their control. In a world that changes drastically by the day, where every news story starts with mention of the “unprecedented times” we live in, we need that routine and certainty.

Important elements of health and wellness

All data from VICE Media Group's COVID-19 study, A Prescription for the Future, June 2020. All charts designed by Samantha Aldeborgh.

A desire for good mental health is the driving force behind our pursuit of health and wellness

Survey responses suggest that mental health is at the center of how we view and evaluate our overall health today. It not only remained the most important element of our wellbeing after the arrival of COVID-19, it significantly grew in importance. On average, young people around the world rate their health a 6.9 out of 10. When we asked them why they rated their health the way they did, mental health most frequently came up as the deciding factor. If they were satisfied with their overall health, they had taken the time to get to know themselves better and take care of themselves. Those who are struggling with their overall health often attributed it to being anxious, depressed, or feeling a lack of purpose.

Global Wellness Score

Poor mental health can be a vicious circle. With the state of their mental health, depression and loneliness being the biggest contributors to their anxiety and vice-versa, young people are often stuck in a never-ending loop.

Sources of anxiety

Young people are acutely aware of the predicament they are in, and are taking action to regain control of their mental state. Many have implemented new self-care routines, such as adding a meditation practice (1 in 5 of young people globally said they have). And even more are seeking professional help, with 33 percent indicating they have already sought professional help for their mental wellbeing and another 40 percent saying they plan to in the future (notably, 80 percent of women say they have or will seek professional help for their mental wellbeing compared to only 66 percent of men).


Exercise is taking precedence, for the sake of more than just our appearance

We’re about to see a significant increase in investment in physical health: 52 percent of young people say they will spend more time on physical fitness after COVID-19, and 20 percent say they will spend more money on physical fitness once the pandemic is over. But this won’t necessarily translate into packed gyms and bigger biceps.

Investment in health and wellness

Fifty-six percent of young people say they will mostly exercise alone after the pandemic, and 47 percent will use their own at-home workout routine rather than going to a gym or an in-person class. Nature will become our gym: Sixty-four percent of people say they will go for runs and walks, 38 percent will go for bike rides, and 35 percent will go hiking as part of their post-COVID workout routine.

Outside activities

The goal of working out has shifted from looking good to feeling good. One in two people are using workouts to maintain a routine, enabling them to find stability in these unpredictable times. The motivation, according to our audience, is, number one, to feel good, and number two, to manage mental and emotional health. They are devoting more resources to their physical health to help them maintain their mental health.

When it comes to medical health, people are seeking the facts

Young people are shifting their faith toward science. More than half of young people will seek science-backed information more than they did before COVID-19, and a third will rely more on mainstream medicine in contrast to alternative medicine, seeking out facts and figures and making data-backed decisions.

Reliance on science and modern medicine

They are following the guidelines provided by health officials and government organizations to help keep themselves, and their communities, free from the coronavirus. Seventy-four percent of young people say they are focused on staying well to look out for themselves, and 77 percent say they will be more conscious of their overall health and how it affects others after COVID-19. They are carefully weighing the pros and cons of seeing each other versus looking out for each other, and in most cases they say keeping each other healthy wins out. Eighty-one percent say keeping their friends and family healthy is more important than being able to see them in person.

Despite the precautions and sacrifices young people are making for their medical health, they don’t necessarily believe others are taking the same approach. Only 46 percent of respondents say they trust that others will be more conscious of their overall health and how it affects others after COVID-19. That number drops even lower, to 33 percent, in North America.

A prescription for the future

We’ll never know what tomorrow may bring, especially not in 2020. But we can know how we are going to take care of ourselves. We’ll take stock of our emotions and reach out for support, exercise our bodies to strengthen our minds, and let facts be our guide. And these are new habits that are here to stay: Sixty percent of survey respondents believe the way we take care of our health will be the most lasting societal change after this pandemic.