• Hannah Charles

The real impact of the term ‘lost generation’

It has been over a year since the first lockdown in the UK was announced. Everyone around the world has been impacted in some way and lives have been thrown into the unknown by the coronavirus​ pandemic – but the lives and prospects of young people have been particularly affected. Although schools have now re-opened, the impact of the last year cannot be forgotten. Will the young people of today pay a disproportionate price for the coronavirus crisis – in their schooling, careers, earnings, and life prospects? Questions like this are being highlighted constantly and creating worry for all involved.


While young people make up a small minority of coronavirus cases, many are very concerned about the hidden cost of the virus on young people and their futures. Although schools and universities have begun to re-open, students have lost out on key teaching time and their mental health has been impacted. Furthermore, many young people have already lost jobs while others struggle to find work due to the pandemic. The term ‘lost generation’ is emphasized constantly in the media referring to this generation of young people who have suffered. However, the real questions are how can we avoid today’s young people becoming this ‘lost generation’, and are terms like this causing more harm than good?

Although it is vital young people are prioritized and risks are flagged, terms such as ‘lost generation’ could be more damaging to young people than first believed, meaning this wording should be modified and treated with caution in reference to this cohort. While a large focus should be placed on improving the lives of young people, we need to be careful how we talk about them to avoid heightening the effects of the pandemic. A head teacher from Bedford has generated an important conversation by rejecting suggestions that children are becoming the ‘lost generation’ and referring to them instead as the ‘crucial generation’.


Many are in support of this change of language. For example, the government’s youth mental health ambassador, Alex George, believes it is important to steer away from the current negative phrasing since changing to more positive language could help to minimize fear and concern for young people. Being regarded as ‘the lost generation’ could generate a rise of worry and concern amongst young people, with comments such as ‘What if I don’t catch up?’, ‘Is my future really going to be that bad?’ already being asked by a multitude of young people during this time. Being aware of language and steering away from specific negative, worry-inducing phrases could help reduce the ongoing stress faced by many young people at this time.


The pandemic is having a profound impact on young people. Understanding how communications can help to reduce the worries they are facing and support them through this time of uncertainty is important to reducing the impact on their futures. We think it is crucial to listen to young people’s voices and stay responsive to their needs in the face of uncertainty in particularly. To find out more about this, and young people’s behaviours and attitudes on a wide variety of topics, contact Helen or Afra (helen@discoveryres.co.uk and afra@discoveryres.co.uk).