Young people are happy, ambitious and optimistic despite growing up in economically uncertain times, according to the findings of a survey by Populus for Coca-Cola Great Britain. The study, involving online interviews with 1,023 16-24 year olds and a series of specialist youth focus groups, was carried out by Coca-Cola to provide a snapshot of young people’s views on happiness, their hopes for the future and the people that inspire them.

The findings of the survey of 16-24 year olds reveal that:

  • Their greatest ambitions in life are to have a happy family life (64%), to have a job they enjoy (54%) and to be successful in their careers (38%); fame (1%) and fortune (to be rich – 5%) are their lowest priorities;
  • Mothers (61%) are their biggest inspiration, followed by friends (55%) and fathers (54%); only one in five (21%) feel inspired by celebrities;
  • 9 out of 10 say they have a lot to look forward to in life (86%) and lots they want to achieve (92%);
  • 8 out of 10 young people are looking forward to the year ahead (78%) and are optimistic about what 2014 will bring (77%);
  • 83% say that it’s the little things in life that make them happy;
  • Almost half of young people believe themselves to be happier (42%) and more optimistic (47%) than their parents.
  • 83% feel that the media portrays young people based on stereotypes rather than reality and only 11% think the media represents young people fairly.

Ambitions and inspirations

92% of the 1,023 16-24 year olds sampled said that there were lots of things they want to achieve in life and that they have a lot to look forward to (86%). 84% agreed that you only live once so should make the most of each day and almost 8 in 10 (78%) said they were looking forward to settling down and perhaps getting married or having children.

Having a happy family life (64%) and a job that they enjoy (54%) are the top ambitions of 16-24 year olds, with most young people rejecting the idea of becoming rich (4%) or famous (1%).

Despite growing up in a celebrity-obsessed culture, young people are more likely to be inspired by family and friends than celebrities - 61% said that their mother was their biggest inspiration in life compared to just 21% who said that a celebrity was their role model.

Half (51%) of the young people said that family was the most important thing in their lives, followed by friends (14%), education (11%) and being healthy and active (8%). Just 4% of young people would rather go shopping than spend time with their family. Family was also the thing young people were most likely to be happy about, followed by friends. The majority of young people said that they hope to have children in the future (78%).

And 80% of respondents are excited about their future, looking forward to 2014 (78%) and optimistic about what 2014 will bring (77%).

"There are a lot of expectations on young people today to earn lots of money and to wear the latest trends. But I’d rather be happy than rich. For me that means having a roof over my head, a family I love and a few treats every now and again. My parents inspire me because I want to do as much for my kids as they’ve done for me." Jonathan, 18.


"I most admire people like my mum who always goes out of her way to help other people, than celebrities who have too much money and have lost touch with reality. Too much money isn’t a good thing – you start to take things for granted." Hannah, 17.

This survey is the first stage of a longer, qualitative research project that we are undertaking in 2014 to explore and understand the younger generation’s views and attitudes towards their future. We’re partnering with an independent organisation to conduct in-depth research into the findings we’ve uncovered with this polling, with the intention of publishing a report with firm conclusions and recommendations on how we can all work together to engage, support and improve the prospects of young people. We are aiming to publish this report in the second half of 2014.

Media Portrayal

83% of respondents said that the media portrays young people based on stereotypes rather than reality and 74% thought that the positive things that young people do go unnoticed. Only one in ten (11%) think that the media represents young people fairly.

In focus groups young people pointed to soaps and reality TV shows for portraying young people as irresponsible and antisocial and felt that this influences how other generations feel about them. However, they felt that the Olympic Games had shown young people in a positive light.

"When I am out with my friends, I can see elderly people being nervous and scared at seeing a group of young people-  it makes me sick to think that I am making someone feel like that." Vicky, 21.

"I can’t remember the last time I saw something positive about young people in the news – maybe the Olympics? It’s not fair because it makes older people think we’re dangerous and irresponsible when we’re just trying to do our best!" Lisa, 23.

Worries about the future

Although young people have a generally positive outlook on life, many reported having worries about the impact of economic recession on their futures. Almost three quarters (72%) of young people were worried about being able to afford to buy a home and 66% were worried about finding a job.

Young people were also less positive about the state of the environment, country, and the world as a whole than they were about their family life or friendships.

" Young people have had to change their expectations a lot – suddenly moving out and having my own home just isn’t realistic. I try to just live in the moment and not worry too much, but it’s definitely tough out there for us." Alex, 22.

" Sometimes you feel like there’s nothing you can do about all of the bad things that you see happening in the world. I focus on my local community and my family because that’s where I feel I can make the biggest difference." Karim, 20.

Finding a voice

More than half (56%) of the young people surveyed felt that their voices weren’t heard when significant decisions about the future of the country were being taken - 46% thought that government should give young people a bigger role in decision-making. Seven in ten (71%) wanted the government to do more for young people, such as making work experience more readily available and giving more funding to schools and universities to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities.

Most young people felt that the media portrays them unfairly - 83% think that the media portrays young people as stereotypes, 73% believe that these portrayals are unfair and 74% that the positive things that young people do go unnoticed by the media.

"I’m studying politics because I want to make a difference to the world. Decisions are being made without any thought about how they affect young people – it’s up to us to try to change things for the better." Jayden, 18.

"Coca-Cola GB has always celebrated and championed young people and the contribution they make to their communities and the world. We carried out this research because we wanted to give young people a voice and to understand what motivates and inspires them. We think the results give an uplifting insight into the lives of young people in the UK which may challenge many people’s assumptions." Joel Morris, Director of Communications for Coca-Cola Great Britain.

The findings have been released as Coca-Cola Great Britain launches ‘Reasons to Believe (In A Better World)’, a new thought provoking campaign which brings to life the optimism and positivity that Coca-Cola has always stood for over the last 127 years. ‘Reasons to Believe’ is based on real consumer insight and is aimed at inspiring people to believe that, for all the negativity and tension in the world, there is also a lot of good.



*The survey was conducted by Populus for Coca-Cola Great Britain. Populus conducted 1,023 online interviews with young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to ask about their attitudes to happiness, ambition, making their way in the world, and social media. The 16-24 year old age group is a particularly difficult age group to target and the sample was recruited via specialist youth panels.

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Notes to Editors

About Coca-Cola Great Britain:
Coca-Cola Great Britain is responsible for marketing 21 brands and over 100 products to consumers across Great Britain, with a focus upon developing new brands and extending existing brands including Coca-Cola (recognised as the world’s most valuable brand). Other Coca-Cola Great Britain brands include Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Oasis, Glaceau vitaminwater, Oasis, Schweppes, 5 Alive, Lilt, Kia Ora, Relentless Energy Drink and Powerade. The Coca-Cola Great Britain portfolio is worth £2,095 million with value sales growth of 4.8% in the past year. Within this, the My Coke trilogy (Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero) is worth £1,162 million (Nielsen, w/c 20/04/13). Coca-Cola Great Britain is committed to developing innovative, responsible and sustainable initiatives that help protect the environment. Recently, the company launched its PlantBottle™ plastic made from up to 22.5% plant-based materials. For more information about Coca-Cola in Great Britain, please visit our website at

For more information, data, spokespeople or case studies, please contact:

Helen Davison
020 3542 1120

Sonia Malhotra
020 3542 1125