The pandemic and Swiss youth


Institutional Communication Service

19 January 2022

The younger generation feels poorly represented in public discourse about the pandemic. Most people aged 15 to 34 cannot recall any communication targeted to their age group, except for critical media reports about them. It is the result of a study conducted in the German and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland by the Department of Comparative Linguistics of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and Università della Svizzera italiana (USI).

"We observe that young people certainly care about the health of older people," says Suzanne Suggs, professor at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society at USI. This seems to be more effective when clearly explaining how and why certain behaviours are necessary to adopt. However, the survey shows that several young people are asking for a better understanding of the measures taken to deal with the pandemic.

The study was divided into two parts, asking on the one hand what young people thought of official communications (i.e., announcements issued directly by the authorities) and on the other hand an opinion on media communications (i.e., filtered through newspapers/radio/television). 

In particular, it stood out that young people felt blamed for carrying the virus and being oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore, none of the respondents could recall any inclusive official communication from the media during the reporting period from the start of the pandemic to October 2021.

In terms of official communication, young people felt that they were only affected by those measures related to the school closing, distance learning and leisure, with even nightclubs and venues inaccessible due to the health situation.

In the first three months of Covid's pandemic, the younger generation perceived the public debate as "too emotional or too drastic". "We can describe and understand how varied the public discourse was and how it consequently shaped different information and communication needs", Philipp Dreesen of ZHAW says in a note.

At the regional level, the study revealed some distinctions. In Ticino, young people used stronger language when describing the communication that they received (using terms such as "it was frightening"). Young people in German-speaking Switzerland had a different perception. Those who live in Ticino highlighted how the media generated a state of anxiety and the significant influence of the Italian media.

Youth from German-speaking Switzerland talked about a larger number of negative consequences such as not being able to experience life to the fullest (e.g., travelling or meeting new people).

Health authorities and organisations were faced with yet another great challenge. They needed to call for cohesion and at the same time find ways to address different groups in a targeted manner. "The complexity, uncertainty, and rapidly changing situation generated a lot of pressure, but also memorable results in terms of communication", notes Peter Stücheli-Herlach, of ZHAW, referring to interviews conducted with decision-makers.

More information on the study can be found at this following link.


The study project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The research team analysed the public discourse (media, politics, health organisation, etc.) during the first months of the pandemic and conducted a survey and qualitative interviews with people aged 15-34 years in the German and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland.