The COVID-19 outbreak has altered daily life for Americans – from how they work and attend school, to the ways they connect with others, to how they worship. These experiences can vary with age. Here are eight findings from Pew Research Center surveys about how Americans across the age spectrum have experienced the pandemic.
1Older Americans are the most likely to see the outbreak as a major threat to their health and the least likely to see it as a threat to their personal financial situation. About half (49%) of those 65 and older said in a late April-early May survey that the coronavirus is a major threat to their health. But fewer in this age group – 32% – say it is a major threat to their personal finances.
Meanwhile, younger Americans are more likely to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their personal finances than as a major threat to their personal health. Four-in-ten adults ages 18 to 29 say the outbreak is a major threat to their financial situation, and 26% say it is a threat to their health. Those ages 30 to 49 are 9 percentage points more likely to say the outbreak is a major threat to their finances than to say it is a major threat to their health (43% vs. 34%).
2Job disruption during the COVID-19 shutdown is most common among adults younger than 50. In an early April survey, 54% of those ages 18 to 29 and 49% of those 30 to 49 said they or someone in their household had experienced job or wage loss because of the coronavirus outbreak. This compares with 42% of those ages 50 to 64 and a quarter of those 65 and older.
One-quarter of workers ages 16 to 24 have lost their jobs during the coronavirus downturn, according to a Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Young adults also tend to work in the industries most vulnerable to job loss related to the coronavirus shutdown. Among the 19.3 million workers ages 16 to 24 in the economy overall, 9.2 million, or nearly half, are employed in service-sector establishments. In areas with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks, employers in these industries were among the most likely to close.
3Majorities of adults under 50 say the internet has been essential to them during the coronavirus outbreak, compared with about a third of those 65 and older. An early April survey found that as people turned to the internet to replace in-person social and business encounters, about six-in-ten adults under 30 (62%) said the internet has been essential to them during the outbreak, while 65% of adults ages 30 to 49 felt this way. This compares with about half (49%) of those ages 50 to 64 and 31% of those 65 and older.
The same survey found that younger adults were more likely than others to have held virtual parties and gatherings with their family and friends, watched concerts or other live-streamed events and participated in online fitness activities. For example, 48% of adults ages 18 to 29 had a virtual party or gathering online, compared with about two-in-ten of those 50 and older.
4Differences by age are modest when it comes to knowing someone diagnosed as having COVID-19 and knowing someone hospitalized or who has died from it. The Center’s late April-early May survey showed no noteworthy differences across age groups in who reported knowing someone in these situations. Overall, 28% of Americans said they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 20% said they know someone who has been hospitalized or who has died from it. When it comes to knowing someone who has been officially diagnosed, racial, ethnic and regional differences exist.
5Younger adults are more likely to report feeling emotional distress as the pandemic unfolds. A March survey asked people if they had experienced five different types of psychological distress in the past seven days, including anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and loneliness. Adults 18 to 29 were more than twice as likely to fall into the “high distress” category than those 65 and older (33% vs. 15%). A repeat of that question in late April showed a similar pattern. The other categories were “medium distress” and “low distress.”
6Americans ages 50 and older are more likely to say their faith is stronger because of the pandemic. In late April, a Center survey found that adults 50 and older were more likely than those under 50 to say their own religious faith has become stronger as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, 29% of those 65 and older reported their faith has become stronger, compared with 17% of those ages 18 to 29.
This trend reflects the wide generational gap in religious affiliation and attendance among Americans.
7U.S. adults under 50 are more likely to say that, as coronavirus cases were first reported around the world, President Donald Trump was “too slow” to take major steps to address the threat of the outbreak to the United States. Three-quarters of those ages 18 to 49 say this, compared with 55% of adults ages 50 and older.
In general, younger Americans are less likely to approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president and are more likely to disagree with him on a range of issues. Younger Republicans are also more likely than older ones to say they dislike the way Trump conducts himself as president.
8When it comes to foreign affairs, American adults under 30 are more likely than older adults to expect no changes in international cooperation once the coronavirus crisis is over, a late April survey found. Just under half (46%) of Americans ages 18 to 29 think the status quo will be maintained, compared with only about a third of 30- to 49-year-olds (29%) and those 50 and older (32%).