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People talk about boomers, Millennials, and zoomers, but what does it really mean? And how does your generation impact your views, personality, and behavior?

From dismissive "OK boomer" comments to jokes boomers make about Millennials and their avocado toast, we've all heard about the generational divide. What exactly are these generations, and does the generation we were born into really determine who we become?

What Are Social Generations, and Why Does it Matter?

Social generations divide people into cohorts based on the cultural, economic, and political contexts they grew up in. Your birth year determines what generation you fall into — but the events that dominate the news when you "come of age" (according to research, between ages 17 and 23) really matter. 

The historical events that unfold during your youth are said to leave an imprint, along with the cultural, technological, and social changes that unfold during this time. These external events, many sociologists say, play a significant role in shaping who we become and who we remain throughout our lives. 

Sociologists talk about generational cohorts because people in the same generation often share a broadly similar outlook on life. These people were shaped by the same events, even if they have opposing views. 

When does one generation end and another start? What are each generation's defining traits? Let's take a look!

The Silent Generation

The silent generation was the first group of people to be defined along generational lines. The oldest living people today belong to this generation, which is defined by:

  • Birth years between 1926 and 1945
  • People of the silent generation either lived through the Second World War or were born just as the war was ending. They are deeply defined by it.
  • People of the silent generation are action-oriented and generally don't talk much about their emotions. They are disciplined and resilient.
  • This generation is loyal.
  • Major innovations this generation enjoyed included penicillin, radar, and rubber. Lab-produced products like synthetic fabrics entered the market en masse when silents came of age.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, now often just called boomers, came into the world during the post-World War Two population explosion. The Nazis has been defeated, and this was a time of great optimism. Boomers are defined by:

  • Birth years between 1946 and 1964 — 1964 being the year birth rates went down again.
  • Boomers were shaped by the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the moon landing, and the assassination of Robert Kennedy
  • They lived through inflation and economic stagnation when they got their first jobs.
  • Boomers are said to be optimistic and idealistic. They are also ambitious and self-sufficient.

Gen X

Generation X, also called the baby bust generation, grew up during a time of rapid technological innovation. They are defined by:

  • Birth years between 1966 and 1980 (with some researchers choosing slightly different years).
  • Computers started playing a major role in life in this generation, and technologies including bar codes entered the scene. At home, though, they relied on TV.
  • Watergate, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the energy crisis are among the events that shaped this generation.
  • Gen X people are said to be logical and resourceful. 


Millennials were the butt of all jokes until recently, but soon enough, even the youngest Millennials won't be young anymore. This generation is defined by:

  • Birth years between 1980 and 1995.
  • Millennials are the first generation not expected to do better than their parents in terms of wealth and property ownership. Perhaps this is why they are often said to obsess about silly things like avocado toast; home ownership is out of reach for many.
  • September 11, the wars that followed, the recession, and the technological revolution are some of the most important events to shape Millennials. 

Gen Z

Gen Z, also called zoomers or iGen, is the upcoming generation. They are characterized by:

  • Birth years between (roughly) 1997 and 2010 (when, according to some, Generation Alpha starts).
  • Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the internet and smartphones from birth.
  • While many zoomers are still children and some of the events that will shape them are yet to be defined, the election of Donald Trump, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the war in Ukraine (and resulting economic crisis) are all important events they lived through.

How Does Each Generation See Health and Health Care?

The silent generation was the last one to have unquestioned respect for authority, but they were less likely to go to the doctor for everything. 

Millennials are the most health-conscious generation, spending more on healthy food, fitness, and healthcare than any other. They demand personal care and attention and learn about their symptoms on the internet before they go to the doctor. 

All generations lie to their doctors, but about different things. Gen Z is most likely to lie to their doctors, usually about their sexual history, while boomers are the most honest.

Millennials and zoomers are most open about mental health. 

How Much Does Your Generation Shape You?

There's no question that the things going on in the world as we become adults impact who we become. There's no question that technological innovations shape our daily lives and therewith our views and attitudes. It's important to remember that we are all individuals, but the way in which our generation shapes us is interesting and worth considering.

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