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How Well Do We Know Millennials?

Attention well-being industry: your most loyal users have the least interest of any generation in taking a health assessment or sitting down for a health screening.

And just who are these people? Believe it or not, it’s millennials. Their generation has the highest rates of participation in well-being programs, according to a survey of more than 3,560 adults by the Employee Benefit Research Institute1.

It turns out there’s a lot to like about millennials. They are definitely engaged in their well-being programs. The survey found that they are more likely than baby boomers or Generation Xers to say they have participated in activity-based well-being challenges, visited an on-site clinic, participated in counseling or stress management training, received reimbursement for a fitness club membership and taken advantage of financial well-being resources.

Millennials, it’s worth pointing out, are the largest generation in America’s workforce.  Since they are also the youngest generation of adults, their health will have long-lasting effects on employers, insurers and the health system for decades to come. Addressing their specific well-being needs and desires will be critical for employers and health plans alike.

Millennials are far and away most likely to agree that their primary doctor does not have the expertise to deal with complex health issues.

As far as the future of well-being programs, what does it mean that millennials are less likely than older generations to complete a health risk assessment or biometric screening? Even when those two activities are commonly paired with an incentive?

Are they less interested in incentives as a rule, or are they simply less interested in financial incentives? Do they skip their health assessment because they are younger and less likely to be diagnosed with a chronic condition? Do they jump at the chance to join a gym or a well-being challenge because they thrive on social interactions?

Our own research in 2016 found that millennials are more likely than older generations to be enticed by non-financial incentives. We asked participants what would encourage them to continue to use a health-related mobile app. Financial incentives were popular across all generations, but millennials were more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to be motivated by non-financial incentives such as donations to charities and tie-ins with social media. (WebMD Health Services commissioned Blue Research® in 2016 to conduct an independent study with more than 1,000 U.S. consumers to compare the health and wellness attitudes.)

For more insights like these, download our e-book, Millennial Health & Wellness Perceptions.

Other findings from the EBRI research (co-sponsored by Greenwald & Associates) paint a picture of millennials, compared to older generations, as more receptive to digital health tools and less likely to think their doctor knows best.

Millennials are far and away most likely to agree that their primary doctor does not have the expertise to deal with complex health issues (39 percent believe this is true). And they’re also the group most likely to rely on themselves, rather than their primary doctor, to make decisions about medical care, the EBRI survey found.

Millennials also are most likely to have used a walk-in clinic (30 percent, nearly twice as much as baby boomers and Generation X) and be interested in telemedicine (40 percent versus just 19 percent for baby boomers).

A digital health consumer adoption survey by Rock Health in 2016 told a similar story about millennials as “digital natives,” having grown up with the Internet at their fingertips for their entire lives2. Millennials are the most likely to use a health app, own a wearable device and have tried telemedicine:

  • 33 percent of millennials have downloaded a health app in the last 30 days (vs. 20 percent of Gen Xers and 7 percent of baby boomers).
  • 40 percent of millennials own a wearable device (vs. 26 percent of Gen Xers and 10 percent of baby boomers).
  • 42 percent of millennials have used synchronous video telemedicine (vs. 25 percent of Gen Xers and less than 5 percent of baby boomers.

What does it all mean for the long term? That’s an interesting question as the millennial generation ages. Having already shown an encouraging rate of program participation, this cohort undoubtedly needs flexible, digital tools with the right mix of incentives.

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