The recession is shaping a new consumer segment, coined the Downturn Generation by Information Resources (IRI).

Members of the Downturn Generation are transforming the ways they shop, eat, and care for their homes and themselves. 2 in 3 consumers believe their financial condition is worse than it was one year ago, and 71% say they have less wealth than they did.

IRI identifies 3 segments:

Optimists, who agree that “things will get better during the next 12 months” and have selectively cut back purchases; for them, sacrifices are a last resort.
Maintainers, who agree that “the economy won’t get worse, but it won’t get better either,” so are more aggressively cutting back spending.

Pessimists, who believe that “if you think times are hard now, next year will be worse.” These people have cut personal spending the deepest and are the deal-hunters.

IRI believes that people in the 3 segments will continue the spending behaviors they’ve adopted in the economic downturn.

People note that gas and food prices have negatively impacted their financial situations in the past six months.

One of the main changed behaviors for their behaviors in this situation is that 7 in 10 say they’re shopping based on price. The importance of The Brand has seriously waned. It’s all about couponing on and offline, reading peer consumer reviews online to research purchases very carefully.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: On the health front, IRI found that between 30% to 47% of consumers are buying less healthy products, and fewer fresh produce and organic items.

Furthermore, consumers are cutting health costs by deciding to self-treat at home versus visiting a doctor and increasing their use of over-the-counter meds. This finding agrees with the recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, shown here.

Self-care includes people using the Internet for health counsel versus asking their doctors: some 44% of IRI’s surveyed consumers said they’re “trading their doctor for information on the Internet.” One-half of these people say they’ll continue to do this in the future.

In America, health care continues to morph into a consumer good. At the same time, IRI’s findings speak directly to the need for a patient-centered, primary care medical home.