The Fallacy of the Apathetic Millennial Healthcare Consumer
A few years ago, in a TIME op-ed column, Chelsea Clinton wrote, “Millennials are often portrayed as apathetic, disinterested, tuned out and selfish. None of those adjectives describe the Millennials I’ve been privileged to meet and work with.” With healthcare consumerism gaining momentum, organizations that want to connect with Millennials — whether they are healthcare providers, insurers or fitness app developers — need to go beyond the generalizations made about this critical cohort to understand what makes them tick.
Psychographic segmentation makes it possible, revealing the deeper motivations and attitudes they have towards health and wellness.
Defining Health Differently
In the Communispace study, Healthcare without Borders: How Millennials are Reshaping Health and Wellness, Katrina Lerman explores the unique perspectives that Millennials bring to healthcare. The study used a variety of methods to conduct its research:
- Image-based metaphor-building tools and open-ended discussions within three Communispace online communities with more than 600 participants.
- A 54-question online survey, along with the Consumer Classifier psychographic segmentation questionnaire, given to a national sample of more than 1,500 consumers.
Based on the research, one fact is clear: Millennials have a much broader definition of health and wellness than do older consumers. For example, 49 percent of Millennials rank maintaining work/life balance a more important consideration for staying healthy than regular physical exams or health insurance. This research bears out what other studies have discovered.
A report by Goldman Sachs which analyzed data about attitudes, spending patterns and progressions through major life stages, found that “Baby Boomers and Generation X are more likely to define the word ‘healthy’ as ‘not sick,’ whereas Millennials define ‘healthy’ in terms that encompass whole-health, using phrases like ‘eating right’ and ‘exercising.’”
The Goldman Sachs report also revealed that Millennials tend to be “stingier” than older consumers. While they may not be willing to pay for membership at a fitness club, the study found that they will prioritize spending for fitness gear like shoes and wearable technology, and they use fitness and health apps twice as much as other healthcare consumers. What’s more, the Communispace study found that Millennials are willing to share this fitness data as long as the sharing adds value and maintains privacy and security.
Looking Deeper to Drive Engagement
While these findings prove the apathetic label a misnomer, they are still generalizations. Organizations that want to encourage physical fitness among Millennials need to understand the distinct motivations that influence engagement. Using PatientBond's psychographic segmentation, the Communispace study revealed that:
- Millennials skew much more heavily to the Willful Endurer segment at 32.6 percent versus 20.9 percent among other age groups. Willful Endurers are the most reactive and least engaged of five segments when it comes to health and wellness. While this segment is over-developed among Millennials (and may be the stereotype many people hold of this generation), two-thirds of Millennials fall into the other segments.
- One in five Millennials are Balance Seekers, one of the most proactive segments when it comes to health and wellness. Dedicated to nutrition, activities and reducing stress in their lives, they are also highly independent. They may not visit a physician at the first sign of health issues, perhaps exploring self-directed treatment initially; thus, they may appear disengaged from a health system’s standpoint, when they are actually quite engaged in their health.
Understanding the unique needs of Millennials within each group allows you to fine tune your engagement strategies to tap into this market more effectively.
The Communispace study notes, for example, that “deciding that life is a gamble anyway, many (Millennials) prefer to focus on staying healthy today, rather than worry about getting sick in the future — a mindset that is especially characteristic of the unengaged Willful Endurer and busy Priority Juggler segments.”
This knowledge, combined with the Millennial trend toward engagement with technology, has helped Walgreens motivate customers to share their health data to earn rewards from the retailer — more than 1.8 million willingly report on their fitness efforts, boosting store loyalty. Such an approach is especially relevant for the Willful Endurers who are more motivated by the immediate benefit of rewards and discounts than the argument that fitness activities will lead to better health in the future.
Millennials have the power to influence healthcare consumerism as much, if not more, than any other demographic group. For that reason, organizations that want to attract Millennials need to develop strategies that are centered on the distinctive psychographic segments within the broader audience.