Advertising & Marketing

Reading Is a Top Spare-Time Activity for All Generations

Our spare time is precious. How we unwind says a lot about what we value. With a wide array of pastimes available, respondents in a recent Nielsen global survey were asked to select their top three spare-time activities. While certain activities skew younger than older and vice versa, if you think technology-driven younger people don’t read anymore, think again.

In this third of a five-part series about the differences between how generations live, eat, work and save, we focus on how consumers play.


While TV has universal appeal as a favorite spare-time activity among all generations, it turns out that more respondents in Generation Z (ages 15-20) selected reading (27%) as a favorite activity than tuning into their favorite TV programs (23%). In fact, more Gen Z respondents picked reading than reviewing social media (17%) or playing video and online games (17% and 16%, respectively).

Other activities, however, have particular younger or older age skews. When ranked by percentage that picked the activity, listening to music landed as a top three pick for Generation Z (37%) and Millennials (27%), while it fell further down the list for older respondents. Conversely, our desire to explore steadily increases as we age, as traveling was selected by 12% of Generation Z, 18% of Millennials, 22% of Generation X, 22% of Baby Boomers and 25% of Silent Generation respondents. Gardening (22%) was a unique favorite among Silent Generation respondents, putting it in their top-five list of spare-time activities.

Other findings from the Nielsen Global Generational Lifestyles Report include:

 The majority of older respondents turn to TV to get the news, but the medium still holds sway for nearly half of Millennial (48%) and Generation Z (45%) respondents.

Older respondents show higher levels of being distracted by technology at mealtime than younger generations.

Millennials are roughly two times more likely than Generation X to leave their current job after two years.

More than half of Generation Z and Millennial respondents (52% and 54%, respectively) want to live in a big city or urban neighborhood.

Approximately half of younger respondents say they save money each month, but they aren’t confident in their financial futures.

The Nielsen Global Generational Lifestyles Survey polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to better understand how global consumer sentiment differs across life stage. For the purposes of this study, respondents are segmented into five life-stage classifications: Generation Z (age 15-20), Millennials (21-34), Generation X (35-49), Baby Boomers (50-64) and Silent Generation (65 and older).

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