LONDON — Would you be able to navigate your way around a city by paper map should your smartphone break? Such a prospect may be frightfully daunting for millennials. A new survey finds just 18% feel “very confident” in their ability to read a traditional map, compared to nearly half of middle-aged adults.

What’s worse, 15% of millennials — about one in seven — say they’ve never even tried reading a paper map. That means millions of young adults may end up completely lost without a working digital device.

The survey of 1,000 millennials (adults ages 23 thru 38) and 1,000 middle-aged adults at least 39 years old in the United Kingdom revealed that technology has entirely changed the face of what many once considered one of the most important skills to learn in life. Results of the survey, which was sponsored by Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency for Great Britain, showed that 44% of the older adult segment considered themselves very confident with their map abilities.

Meanwhile, six in ten millennials admit they rely on their phone’s map whenever going somewhere new. More than half (53%) say they’d actually “struggle” to get around without their phone handy.

Overall, researchers found the average millennial uses a digital map five times a month, or at least once a week, while the middle-aged adults only do so just twice a month.

“Digital mapping, through apps and websites, has transformed the way in which we navigate,” says Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, in a statement. “Technology is great, and we are seeing year on year how apps like OS Maps are inspiring and enabling millions of people to get outside. However, we have all experienced tech fails, whether batteries dying or signal issues, and this is where paper maps can be an essential backup.”

The survey also found that digital maps aren’t always a sure thing for millennials, with 30% admitting they’ve gotten lost or headed in the wrong direction when using one. Despite this, just 20% wished they were better at reading traditional maps.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Ordnance Survey by OnePoll.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor