Healthcare and the Millennial Factor

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What are the unique ways millennials use healthcare, and how does that affect public health costs and concerns?

An Apple A Day

Millennials tend to avoid visiting the doctor, specifying “time,” “money,” and “uncertainty” as major factors in skipping physician visits. These factors correspond with generational attitudes regarding cost/benefit; weaned on a series of financial crises, millennials tend toward frugality. And despite student loan debt loads being higher, the average millennial income is lower than that of previous generations.

Not only do other priorities trump preventive healthcare, when millennials actually need medical attention, they tend to utilize the internet to self-diagnose, favoring Google and WebMD. Lacking previous generations’ sense of job security, millennials also dislike skipping work for any reason, opting to visit walk-in clinics or urgent care centers, which keep longer hours and allow them to fit in healthcare around jobs and on weekends.

Millennials are also more mindful of healthy eating than their parents, leading some experts to believe that they rebound faster from run-of-the-mill illnesses.

Changing Motivation

For millennials, cost of healthcare coverage is of primary importance, and they often select insurance plans based on monthly premiums rather than whether or not their regular doctor is in network. This is partially due to the fact that millennials do not tend to have regular doctors, taking an à la carte approach to healthcare. They are also more likely than the previous generation to ask about the cost of treatment before receiving it, and are more likely to delay treatment due to perceived high costs.

When it comes to fitness, 55% of millennials report that their motivation is “to look good,” rather than to “avoid illness”—likely a result of social media’s ubiquity of public photos. And because they don’t make clear distinctions between work and personal hours, citing overtaxed schedules and a poor economy, 40% of millennials say they are more likely to participate in health programs that are “easy or convenient to do,” focusing predominantly on programs that meet their work/life balance needs.

Long-Term Repercussions

While fewer visits to the doctor is seemingly an indicator of better health, repercussions of avoiding physician’s visits can last far longer than any time and money spent on preventive care. Physical and mental health problems ignored for years are much more likely to become worse or last into adulthood.

One-time trips to various doctors and redi-clinics lead to a spotty medical record as well; not having a doctor familiar with one’s overall history can lead to increased cost, as symptoms can be missed and redundant tests are performed. When millennials don’t keep up a relationship with a regular doctor, they also risk receiving lower-quality care, leading to injuries and illnesses remaining entirely untreated.

If the medical industry wishes to avoid an undue burden of sick seniors in forty years, it would do well to address the underlying factors and remove barriers standing between Millennials and health monitoring and treatment.