All signs point to the COVID-19 pandemic being fully behind us: The Biden administration’s COVID-19 national public health emergency protocols are set to end on May 11; consumers’ comfort in pre-pandemic activities, such as going to a concert or a museum, is increasing over time; and while travel is starting to recover, the lack of a full rebound may be more of an economic factor than a pandemic factor.

Yet, while COVID-19 is no longer on the forefront of everyone’s daily lives, it is still a lingering factor. Brands should exercise caution: While, functionally, the pandemic is not something that’s top of mind, consumers are still dealing with the lasting emotional effects resulting from it.

Lingering Fear Of The Pandemic Is More Likely to Be Felt By Younger Consumers

Forrester has been constantly tracking consumer attitudes and behaviors — here, we compare recent data from Forrester’s February 2023 Consumer Pulse Survey with our data from February 2022 to analyze how consumers’ pandemic recovery outlook has evolved. The data shows that:

  • Fear of the coronavirus is down from a year ago, but almost half of US consumers are still fearful. Forrester’s February 2023 Consumer Pulse Survey saw that 44% of US online adults are still afraid of the spread of the coronavirus, and 49% are afraid of the rise of coronavirus variants. We will likely see the lasting impact that the coronavirus has had on US adults for some time as both Gen Zers and Millennials are more likely than older generations to be fearful of it.
  • Consumers aren’t yet ready to see the “bright side” of the impact of the coronavirus. One of the telltale reasons that we’re not fully out of the impact of the pandemic is that consumers aren’t ready to see the positive impact from it yet. Only 14% of US online adults see a positive impact on their quality of life from the coronavirus — and this remained unchanged over the course of the year.
  • Gen Zers and Millennials are most likely to feel the impact of the pandemic. The pandemic will be one of the defining cultural moments for Gen Z, like 9/11 was for Millennials — a moment that has upended younger generations’ outlook on life as they come of age with disrupted classrooms and build careers that are marked by a constant flux of layoff news. The financial and economic impact is felt much more negatively by younger generations. Fifty-one percent of Gen Z and Millennial US online adults agree that they are financially prepared to handle the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, versus 60% of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (those born before 1945).

Forrester clients: Set up a guidance session with me to keep up to date on all things related to consumer trends and sentiment.