Health Habits of Female Millennials

This article was originally published by the American Marketing Association.

America’s shifting demographics are highly visible in the millennial generation. Consisting of about a third of Americans, this generation is far more racially diverse than any generation before it. Millennial women’s attitudes toward health and the healthcare system are different than previous generations, too, and millennials are consuming healthcare in different ways than older generations did.

Here are a few ways millennial women are changing the playing field with their healthcare shopping, purchasing and consuming habits.

  • Millennials, and especially female millennials, are more focused on healthy eating than previous generations, and they’re willing to pay a premium for healthier foods (globally, not just in the U.S.).
  • Anxiety, stress and depression are higher in the millennial age group than in previous generations. While many hypotheses as to why have been suggested, it’s likely due to a combination of factors such as increased pressure via social media, shifting parenting styles and declining incomes combined with ballooning debt.
  • Millennials tend to source their health information differently per sociodemographic group, with differences by gender, ethnicity, and immigration and educational status. The internet is the primary source of health information for almost all millennials; however, it’s worth noting that:
    • African Americans and Latinos gain insights from traditional media at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians.
    • Higher education levels correlate to higher levels of seeking health help and info from family members.
  • Millennial women plan to take more time off than their male counterparts to care for others, including children, aging parents and their partners.
  • Orthorexia, not officially recognized in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has been proposed as a term that describes an obsession with eating healthy, and millennial women are particularly prone to it—possibly because of a social media climate that emphasizes eating “clean” and posting selfies with healthy foods.
  • Data pulled from Google Trends suggests that “healthy living” means something different to male millennials than female millennials; men tend to focus on exercise, while women focus on food (particularly older millennial females).
    • Interestingly, older millennials are more health-focused than younger ones. This could be because they’re at a stage of life when they’re starting families and realizing that poor health choices, such as eating unhealthy foods and skipping exercise, have consequences that can interfere with their ability to handle their growing professional and personal responsibilities.

What do all these data points add up to for hospital and healthcare marketers? Not problems, but opportunities. Here are some ways healthcare marketers can appeal to millennial women.

  • Convenience is extremely important for millennial women, but seeking care via America’s current healthcare system tends to be anything but convenient—plus the issue of cost transparency can be a significant barrier. These systemic problems are extremely hard to course-correct, but marketers who tout a system’s efforts in these areas may be met with more success than those who focus on state-of-the-art medical equipment or physician expertise.
    • Consumers are also increasingly searching for providers who offer their care virtually, so marketers should consider focusing on a system’s telemedicine capabilities in ads aimed at millennial women.
  • Traditional tactics are not as effective for millennials as they are for older consumers. According to a Harris Poll, millennials (especially millennial women) trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from their friends, often on social media, more than they trust advice from a professional—and they’re twice as likely to take action based on it. Marketers should meet millennial women where they are to connect with them.
  • Millennial women value authenticity, so testimonial campaigns shared via social media can be a good tactic to reach them.
  • Once you do reach them, educate millennial women on the benefits of preventive care and maintaining a relationship with a primary care provider, who can serve their basic healthcare needs as well as give high-quality, in-system referrals when other problems arise.
  • The best way to increase health knowledge among millennials of all demographics is to provide information in standardized, easy-to-understand, reliable formats. Health systems that do this well, such as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, have earned millions of followers on the social media channels where their consumers spend time; these healthcare organizations explain complex conditions, symptoms and treatments in clear, approachable language.

Change is the only constant and this seems particularly true in healthcare. Whether it’s due to our shifting political climate, the increasing pressures faced by doctors, the habits of those who consume medical services, or an infinitely complicated combination of factors, the one thing we can count on is that as soon as we’ve got it figured out, the game will change again.