In our recent Beyond 2020 study, we took a close look at how 16- to 24-year-olds in 15 countries around the world were responding to the dramatic events of last year. During this period of disruption and rapid change, who did they trust the most – and how has their trust in others changed since we previously surveyed global young people on this topic in 2017?

With the lockdowns and quarantines forced upon everyone by the Covid-19 pandemic, we found that young people came to trust most people in their lives – especially their doctors – more than a few years ago. . But more than anyone else, their confidence rested with their parents, their closest friends, and themselves.

Here’s what we learned in more detail:

The pandemic has inspired young people to trust their doctors substantially more. In 2017, 19% of global young people said they trusted their doctor. In 2020, with more urgent need for medical advice during the Covid-19 pandemic, trust in doctors rose to 32% – an increase of nearly 70%, more than any other group. Young people now trust doctors more than their aunts and uncles (23%), their wider circle of friends (21%), their teachers (20%), and their cousins (20%).

However, they trust their mothers and themselves more than anyone else – and that trust has grown since 2017. In almost all countries surveyed, Mom was the most trusted person in young people’s lives (73% globally). After their mothers, young people trust their own judgment (63%). This faith has only grown since our previous survey in 2017, with trust in Mom up 5 percentage points and trust in self up 9 points.

There were a couple of exceptions, however. China was the only country where trust in self was highest (at 82%) and Mom was the second most trusted person. But even at #2, 75% of Chinese young people trust their mothers – above the global average. In France and the Netherlands, young people trust themselves less than elsewhere, with fathers and best friends ranking second and third in their trust circles.

Fathers and best friends rank third and fourth in young people’s trust circles, with rising trust in Dad. Globally, Dads and best friends are almost equally trusted, at 56% and 55%, respectively. From 2017 to 2020, trust in fathers increased by 5 percentage points, moving them from fourth place into third. Best friends, on the other hand, did not show growth during this period; they also fell in the trust rankings from second place.

They trust their romantic partners, grandparents, and siblings less than their parents, their closest friends, and themselves. The next most trusted groups of people are romantic partners (36%), grandparents, (36%) and siblings (35%). From 2017 to 2020, trust in all three groups increased – grandparents rose by 7 percentage points, siblings by 3 points, and romantic partners by 2 points.

Few young people trust the police, government authorities, and religious leaders. In 2020, 19% of global young people said they trusted the police, up from 14% in 2017. Just 9% trust government/politicians, up from 3% in 2017. Trust in religious leaders was similarly low, at 9% in 2020.