Anyone with disk problems, knee problems, and wallet problems doesn't have to be told that optimism comes more easily in youth. But a study by The Futures Company, "Unmasking Millennials: The Truth Behind a Misunderstood Generation," suggests that salubrious feelings about the future -- which starts receding earlier than one's hairline -- is a function of age, not one's demographic cohort. In other words, widely held myths about optimism as a quality of those born between the '80s and the turn of the millennium are just that.
The study, based on a poll of 27,000 people around the world, found that as they age, Millennials -- so-called "echo-boomers" -- become less optimistic.
The report's analysts tried to tease out the differences between generation-defining attitudes and those reflecting the joie de vivre of youth. What they found was that when the lighthearted quality of youth is extracted from cohort survey responses, sanguine feelings about the future fade year by year, from the young end to the older side of the generational bracket.
The report says that because of this, optimism can't be considered simply as a consistent attitude across the cohort regardless of age. Indeed, only consistently held attitudes that are different from other cohorts are the real generational characteristics, says the report.
Yannis Kavounis, direct of insights and innovation at the London-based organization and the report's co-author, says that perceptions about Millennials are distorted by hype and bad data.
"Greater stress and pressures are apparent in optimism levels as Millennials mature from an almost naive optimism to a more realistic point of view, a shift in their point of view that leads to different behaviors and motivations in the market place," he said in the report. "As Millennials become parents, gain more responsibilities and have more life experiences, their optimism fades."
One study in 2007 of students born between 1982 and 2003 found that 97% of these students owned a computer, nearly as many a cell phone, and that they multitask while using instant messaging. About 40% of them used TV to get news, with 15% watching "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."