In 2020, Italy was one of the first countries to experience the Covid-19 pandemic, with high infection levels and a restrictive lockdown. The economic impact was huge – and young adults were one of the hardest-hit demographics.

To understand how youth in Italy experienced the many difficulties of 2020, we recently analyzed data on Italians aged 16 to 24 from ViacomCBS’s global Beyond 2020 study. Here’s what we learned:

The pandemic made a precarious economy worse, leading to a widespread sense of uncertainty. Covid-19 was the event of 2020 that affected young Italians the most, but even before then the socioeconomic situation there was difficult. In the early months of the pandemic, our research found that young Italians felt a strong sense of responsibility to observe the rules of lockdown for the greater good. The pandemic then went on to amplify their economic anxiety, adding to a preexisting sense of randomness and doubt around their daily lives and future plans, with 77% saying they felt uncertain about the future.

When young Italians think of their future, they look to the world. Despite the difficulty they face locally, Italian youth are aware of and committed to the global community. That’s why the 3 things they would most like to see improve in the future include the environment, systemic racism, and the economy. They believe their generation has the potential to make the world a better place, and they feel like they’re a part of something bigger. This attitude broadens their perspective and shows them a world full of opportunities, keeping them resilient and optimistic. Since they feel connected with a wider global community, when they consider their lives 10 years down the line they prioritize traveling to different countries (50% Italy vs. 45% Europe), having a low carbon footprint (40% Italy vs 30% Europe), and doing charitable work (36% Italy vs 26% Europe). Looking ahead to their future careers, 67% expect to travel around the world for work, compared with a European average of 57%.

Despite their pessimism about government leadership and the economy, they feel their generation can make a difference. Looking a decade into the future, young Italians predict that corruption will continue to be a problem in their country (82% Italy vs. 74% Europe). They also remain more doubtful than European young people overall when it comes to the economy, job security, and their finances. At the same time, 81% believe that future generations will change the world for the better. For this reason, young Italians are more optimistic than Europeans on average when it comes to their attitudes about diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, and for their commitment to protecting the environment and addressing climate change.