Each generation views health care through its own lens.
Older ones tend to let the physician dictate treatment plans without question. As younger generations have stepped into their own sense of autonomy, the ways in which they interact with health care have shifted.
Often referred to as the “drive-through generation,” Millennials — or those between ages 23 and 38 — want their health care needs fulfilled more efficiently and effectively. They tend to be not only more health conscious than previous generations, according to a recent study, but they also look at health more holistically.
“Health isn’t just about seeing a doctor. To Millennials, health means having access to clean air and water, healthy fresh foods, access to green spaces and an emphasis on mental health resources,” said Natalie Bencivenga, LSW, MSW and Ask Natalie advice columnist.
This perspective on health care can be partly attributed to the fact that Millennials have experienced their fair share of anxiety due to social and economic inequities. They’ve faced such burdens as lack of health insurance, stagnant wages, crushing student debt, environmental injustices and systemic racism.
As a result, it’s important to Millennials that their health care be all-encompassing — and digital first. If doctors aren’t willing to do a telehealth appointment or don’t have a robust online presence, Millennials are less likely to engage with them.
Unlike older generations, Millennials typically reserve a phone call to a doctor for a last resort or an emergency. Difficulties with scheduling, a lack of insurance or inconvenient office locations are some of the reasons Millennials sometimes cite for not having a primary care physician.
So how will Millennials’ perspectives on health impact health care and providers in the long run? Dr. Vonda Wright, founder of Women’s Health Conversations, views Millennials as “a powerful force for a paradigm change in all areas of society, and health care and delivery are no exception.
“The sheer volume and volition of this group will force traditional care providers to rethink access, environment and a comprehensive approach to total well-being,” she added. “Millennial health consumers are not consuming disease care. They view traditional medical care as part of a larger focus on the quality of life, financial health and social justice.”
Millennials have surpassed the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“And as the oldest Millennials approach their 40th birthdays, which usually marks the beginning of consistent health prevention like annual physicals, mammograms, etc. … they are beginning to [show] signs of aging,” Dr. Wright said. “Current health care must pivot quickly to meet the new expectations and needs of this dynamic and demanding demographic.”
In essence, Millennials are transforming health care, shattering the old guard and making room for innovative ways to interact with physicians and health care providers.