Generation X, a group that accounts for almost 2 billion people globally, has quietly disappeared from the public conversation after countless articles, studies, and talking points about aging baby boomers and upstart millennials. But, they’ve never stopped exerting their influence on the world and in doing so, have managed to ditch the “slacker” title that once defined them.
Viacom’s international consumer insights group found it essential to get to know today’s Gen X: who they are, what motivates them, and how they self-identify. “Generation X has largely been left behind when it comes to research, only understood through antiquated views of adulthood and the reputation of their youth,” explains Christian Kurz, head of Global Consumer Insights at Viacom. Case in point: They’re consumers with disposable income, key decision makers of household purchases, and leaders with habits and preferences distinct from any other demographic.
Researchers at VIMN surveyed more than 12,000 adults in 21 countries to better understand Gen Xers, globally defined as adults 30-49 rather than the US-specific 34-54 to account for major global cultural events that shape each generation.
Among the most significant findings one stands out: Gen X has managed to take the midlife crisis out of the aging equation. They don’t adhere to the typical hallmarks of adulthood in a linear fashion—steady job in one industry, marriage, children, home ownership—and instead create something new and unique.
Happiness and Self-Confidence Comes with Age
The data VIMN collected also revealed a powerful story: Gen Xers aren’t losing self-confidence with age, they’re becoming increasingly comfortable with who they are. In fact, 3 out of 4 believe their best years are still to come.
Subjects were asked to respond to a question about how comfortable they are with who they are today.
Quality of Life Over Career
So, how has Gen X avoided the pitfalls of a midlife identity crisis? It seems three major factors have the biggest influence on their lives: work, relationships, and surprisingly, hobbies.
- 82% of Gen Xers feel that work-life balance matters more than traditional success
- 81% agree that younger people place more importance on job satisfaction than past generations
- Almost 6 out of 10 women are either chief or equal wage-earners in their household; they’re also almost as likely as Gen X men to own their own business (25% vs. 29%)
Anna Noel Taylor, senior director of Viacom International Research puts this data into context: “Gen Xers don’t necessarily want that corner office. Their drive toward flexibility in their careers is helping them keep midlife crisis at bay. When work becomes too constraining, the rebellion they were once known for comes out. They’ll say, ‘Screw that – there has to be a better way and I will find it.”
More Sex, Fewer Friends
Generation X has surprising priorities when it comes to relationships, and sex tops their list.
- 43% of Gen Xers believe sex is the first priority in relationships. This comes in over friendship (36%) and romance (32%)
- This is in stark contrast to millennials, who value friendship first (40%), romance second (38%), and sex third (37%)
- Gen X values fewer, closer friends vs. the massive squads of Millennials—Gen Xers had an average of 36 friends, 10 fewer than their millennial counterparts
The importance of sex to Gen X can’t be ignored. As James Guerrier, director of Consumer Insights explains, “Millennials may be the ones who are known for hooking up via apps like Tinder, but Gen Xers are more likely to agree that they’re having the right amount of sex and more likely to say their sex lives are good!”
Finding Joy in Hobbies
Having a “thing”—an interest they feel passionately about—insulates Gen X from midlife crises. This activity doesn’t have to be cool, it just needs to make them happy. For some it’s mini-marathons, for others it’s circus school.
- 81% of Gen Xers describe themselves as happy with their lives today. One reason for their contentment is their active search for fulfilment
“Gen X didn’t necessarily ‘grow up,” Kurz explains. “They’re staying young at heart with hobbies and other non-work interests, and skipping the midlife crisis because of it.”
The rebellion that once defined Gen X’s youth has been transformed into something new and beautiful: a radical acceptance of who they are with life defined on their own terms.
To learn more about the inspirational attitudes of this generation, watch this short documentary from VIMN GenX Today.