What Are Gen Z’s Top Spare-Time Activities?

December 1, 2015

Nielsen-Gen-Z-Top-Spare-Time-Activities-Dec2015TV viewing is one of the more popular spare-time activities across generations, but for Gen Z consumers(ages 15-20) it takes a back seat to music listening and reading, per results from a Nielsen survey [download page] of more than 30,000 online consumers across 60 countries. Indeed, a leading 37% of Gen Z respondents indicated that listening to music is one of their top-3 spare-time activities, ahead of reading (27%) and watching TV (23%).

Gen Z’s affinity for music is supported by research into US teens’ preferred media habits. Recently, a study from Common Sense Media revealed that listening to music is the most common – and most enjoyed – media activity among US teens (13-18). TV viewing also emerged as a preferred media activity in that survey, although reading was further behind than in the Nielsen survey.

Interestingly, both pieces of research show that social media is further down the list. In the Common Sense Media survey, fewer than half (45%) of US teens reported using social media everyday, while in the Nielsen survey, reviewing social media was only in the middle of the pack in terms of top spare-time activities, behind exercising and connecting with family and friends.

Several spare-time activities appear to be prominent across the other generations, according to the Nielsen research. Watching TV, for example, is the leading spare-time activity for Millennials (31%), Gen Xers (38%) and Boomers (42%), while falling second only to reading among the Silent Generation. Reading, connecting with friends and family, and travel are also top-5 activities for those generations.


The popularity of TV viewing as a spare-time activity among Millennials (with social media not in the top 5) is backed by research published a couple of years ago by the Urban Land Institute, which found watching TV to be US Millennials’ top use of their free time.

Separately, Nielsen’s “Global Generational Lifestyles” report also finds that:

  • While making money is the top future aspiration among Gen Z respondents, being fit and healthy is tops among Millennials and widens the gap with other aspirations alongside age, with family time also becoming more important with age;
  • Boomers appear to be the most distracted at mealtimes, being the generation most likely to say that they eat most of their dinner meals at home while doing something else and to say that meal times are not technology free;
  • Millennials (58%) are the most likely to eat out at least once a week, at twice the rate of Boomers (29%);
  • Millennials are the most apt to pay more for food with health benefits, citing fair trade benefits as their most important;
  • Boomers (74%) are slightly more satisfied with their occupations than Millennials (68%) and Gen Xers (69%), and are also more satisfied with their work environment/setting and work/life balance;
  • Given the choice, STEM emerges as the top career choice for Gen Zers, while IT is tops among Millennials and Gen Xers, Education & Training leads among Boomers, and Health Science would be the career choice of the largest share of those from the Silent Generation;
  • Although a majority of respondents from all generations say they save enough money each month, more are not confident than confident in their financial futures; and
  • Boomers are the most likely to say that their debt motivates them to be careful about spending.

About the Data: In Nielsen’s survey, generations were defined by the following age ranges:

  • Generation Z: 15-20;
  • Millennials: 21-34;
  • Generation X: 35-49;
  • Boomers: 50-64; and
  • Silent Generation: 65+

Nielsen notes the following about its survey methodology:

“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.”

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