No strings attached: are we a nation of devotees or commitment-phobes?

How does the nation feel about commitment? Are they the devoted types or do they prefer the ‘no strings attached’ approach? We investigate.

09 Jul 2019


Are you a commitment-phobe? Scared to take the plunge? The kind of person who would baulk at a long-term contract, preferring sim free phones and pay-as-you-go arrangements instead? Or are you a card-carrying devotee - someone who thrives off consistency and routine?

We’ve got research that could reveal whether your attitude towards commitment places you younger than your years, older than your time, or totally in sync with your generation!

To build an idea of the nation’s feelings towards commitment, we asked Brits across the age divide to give their thoughts on commitment when it comes to their relationships, jobs and day-to-day lives. Want to see how the respective generations shape up? We’ve got insights from Gen Z (16-23-year-olds), Millennials (24-37), Gen X (38-53) and Baby Boomers (54-72).

#1: Routine and Commitment

Surprise, surprise: the older we get, the more we crave routine and commitment.

Members of Gen Z (16-23-year-olds) are the least likely to be a creature of habit, with 2 in 5 stating they dislike too much routine in their life. Following suit, they appear to be equally as unenthusiastic about commitment, demonstrated by a quarter of the young respondents dismissing the notion entirely. Though they have a few years on the Gen Z’ers, Millennials (24-37-year-olds) take a similar stance on routine and are more likely to state they prefer variety in life over routine of any age group. A generation of free spirits perhaps?

Contrast that with 77% of Baby Boomers (54-72-year-olds) who actively enjoy having order in their lives - a fifth of them value the healthy habits that routine encourages. Their slightly junior Gen X’ers (38-53-year-olds) aren’t far off with their attitudes on routine and commitment. 66% champion routine in their lives, while 1 in 5 feel commitment provides them with the security they crave.

#2: Work and travel

Would you ever leave a job to travel? Or are you too committed to your career to put things on hold to see the world? Our results suggest that the younger you are the more you’re likely to feel travel is a rite of passage - or are possibly just afforded more freedom to do so.

If you’re between the ages of 38-53, you’re unlikely to be able to travel long term, despite loving the idea of it. Gen X respondents are the group most likely to be tied down with responsibilities as they juggle jobs and children. Baby Boomers are also unlikely to drop everything for the globetrotting lifestyle; however, this is more out of choice than circumstance. 35% say they have no interest in long-term travel, and with an additional 70% stating they value the consistency of staying in the same company for many years it suggests careers trump wanderlust among this age group.

Millennials, on the other hand, hold on to the dream of travelling but report being more afraid to take the plunge than any other group. And similarly, Gen Z are keen on the idea but want the security of knowing they could either earn while travelling or have a job to return to. Our twenties and thirties can be a time of freedom and adventure, but it seems that even for the youngsters, the pressure of progressing in a career and earning money can often stand in the way of globetrotting dreams.

This is perhaps why Gen Z respondents see the value of entrepreneurship and the freedom it affords – potentially seeking a way of combining work and travel. Nearly 1 in 10 of respondents in this group claim to own their own company – more than Millennials and Baby Boomers. There’s something to be said for youthful spirit!

#3: Relationships and Dating

Spread the love! Or should you?

As expected, the older generations generally value commitment more than their juniors, but it’s not all rosy or clean cut!

The Baby Boomers love being in a committed relationship, but the generation grew up in the Swinging Sixties when monogamy wasn’t… shall we say, in vogue. Which could be why they’re the group most likely to have cheated on their partner multiple times. Gen X, on the other hand, are all about the loyalty. More than half would categorically never cheat on a partner and love being in a committed relationship. They’re also half as likely to casually date or believe there isn’t a problem with dating more than one person at the same time than the slightly more fluid Millennials.

Talking of whom, Millennials are caught in flux: looking for stable love, but also likely to have cheated on a partner. And it turns out that young love is serious love - young Gen Z respondents actively value the idea – or the reality – of a committed relationship. More than 3 in 5 (63%) can’t wait to settle down - or love the fact they already have! All things considered, they fare very well in the relationship commitment stakes. Perhaps old-school commitment is back in fashion?

#4 Friendships and meeting new people

Platonic relationships play just as large – if not a larger – role in our lives than romantic ones, so how do views about friendships differ between generations? Are we committed to our existing social circles, or constantly seeking new relationships?

Marking themselves as the social butterflies of the nation, Baby Boomers say they love meeting new people and forging new friendships more so than other generations. Gen X aren’t far behind, but do admit to having to be in the right mood to strike up a conversation with a stranger. This considered, only a mere 8% of Baby Boomers and 10% of Gen X actively put themselves in situations where they can meet new people though. A more proactive attitude would go a long way.

When it comes to the younger generations, our results suggest that social anxiety can play a significant part in their day-to-day social interactions. 56% of Millennials admit to suffering from anxiety when they talk to strangers or that they wish they felt more confident talking to new people. So, although, they’re not against meeting new people, other factors can hold them back. Gen Z, on the other hand, avoid conversations with strangers more than anyone else and would even go as far as to say they’re happy with their existing friendship circle and don’t feel the need to branch out and make new friends. 

Are generations becoming increasingly unsociable as time goes on?

#5 Money and saving

With lengthening life expectancies meaning pensions are having to stretch over increased periods of time and getting onto the property ladder proving a growing challenge, saving money has never been more important. But is this a matter that is being taken seriously across the board or do generational attitudes differ? It looks as though our grasp on money management may be slipping throughout the generations, according to our data.

Baby Boomers appear to approach their finances with the most method - 1 in 4 claim they are good at putting money into savings each month. Yet, on the flip side, Gen X are nearly twice as likely to find themselves in debt than Baby Boomers.

Millennials take somewhat of a ‘seize the day’ approach to their finances. 29% admit to being frivolous with their money and that they prefer to enjoy what it can offer them in the present, while only 1 in 4 think they need to worry about their future finances. Likewise, Gen Z are the most likely to admit they are frivolous with their money and are twice as likely to ignore budgets they set themselves than the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations.


 So, where do you sit in the commitment discussion? Are you a creature of routine? Or a free spirit who prefers to take every day as it comes? And, more interestingly, do your views correlate with your age group?

We’ve discovered that while older generations tend to lean further towards commitment and routine than their younger counterparts, it certainly isn’t black and white.

Generally speaking, we all have hesitations towards commitment in one way or another and with much of the nation finding it such a daunting prospect that even a phone contract makes them feel too tied down (over half avoid a monthly contract), sim free mobile phones could well be the way forward. All of the top-of-the-range smartphones, including the iPhone X and Samsung S10, can be enjoyed without the commitment of monthly payments. It’s win-win!