Millennials are typically defined as those born between the early 1980s through to the late 1990s. Aged between 22-37 years old, this generation accounts for about a quarter of the world’s population. Most notably, millennials have grown up with the internet. They are used to having information instantly available at their fingertips and were the generation that led the way in terms of social media and using mobile devices to stay in touch 24/7. But what does this mean for the healthcare industry?
Wellbeing, self-care, and the rise of Generation Sensible
Contrary to perceptions around the world of the UK being a hard-drinking nation, the rise of millennial health and wellness trends means those born between 1980 and 1995 are spending more time investing in their health than previous generations. Millennials are much more likely than baby boomers to join wellness programmes such as those offering help with quitting smoking or managing stress, and young people also tend to view their health more holistically than previous generations.
Often referred to as “Generation Sensible”, young people today are actively taking care of their health. The number of smokers has dropped by 1.6 million over the last six years, over 60% of smokers want to quit, and 59.5% of those who have ever smoked have already quit. People are drinking less, too: the number of teetotallers in the UK is rising, with one in five adults not drinking and the proportion of teetotal young people accelerating the most. In fact, more than a quarter of those under the age of 24 are teetotal. As a result of people taking greater care of their health, the risk of smoking and alcohol-related cancers, as well as the risk of stroke, is lowered - whilst pressure on GPs is significantly reduced, too.
Is there an app for that?
Another way that young people today are taking control of their health is via technology. According to a recent Salesforce survey, 6 out of 10 millennials support telemedicine such as video chats as opposed to in-person doctors appointments - and even more want their doctor to give them a mobile app to book appointments, review their health records and manage their preventative care. More and more health-related apps are appearing by the day, with some really empowering patients to take charge of their conditions. From AsthmaSense to Diabetes Tracker, health apps allow users to monitor and record their symptoms and take control of their illness, reducing pressure on GPs and the NHS.
As well as helping people manage specific conditions, there are also apps that simply encourage people to live more healthy lives, from couch to 5k apps to websites with healthy eating advice, which help to promote millennial health and wellness trends. Of course, there is a negative side to all the information available: the rise of Dr. Google means that shockingly, just 41% of millennials trust that physicians are the best source of health information. Whilst people taking control of their health is a great thing, due to people researching online and consulting blogs, message boards and websites to diagnose their conditions, it can have a negative impact too.
The anxious generation
Despite being focused on wellbeing and self-care, due to living in a social media-obsessed, technology-driven world, millennials are often described as the “anxious generation”. In 2018, King’s College London ran a study that found lonely millennials are at twice the risk of developing mental health problems due to increased work pressures and the impact of social media. Generally speaking, people today are becoming more open about mental health, which is great. However, there are knock-on effects and additional expenses that come hand in hand with this.
Companies are beginning to roll out mental health first aiders, and employers are recognising that more needs to be done in the workplace to support their staff and continue to remove the stigma of mental health. But with waiting times for therapy and counselling via the NHS taking an average of six months, if mental health cases continue to rise, the NHS needs to act fast to improve their services and reduce waiting times. And considering that the latest CQC Mental Health Survey showed declines across several areas, with people aged 18-35 consistently reporting poor experiences of using mental health services, there remains a lot of work to be done.
On-the-go isn’t always great
Despite the rise of millennial health and wellness trends such as juicing and veganism, there is another side to our busy and fast-paced lifestyles. With millennials feeling pulled in all directions and processed foods becoming more and more accessible, convenience food is on the rise too. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen cooking healthy foods, a number of millennials are still reaching for convenience options - and Cancer Research UK has even predicted that seven in 10 millennials will be obese by the time they reach middle age.
Obesity in adults is linked to a number of different cancers, including breast, kidney and bowel cancers, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If numbers continue to rise in obesity, this will put even more pressure on the NHS in the years to come, with the number of treatments and surgery needed to tackle obesity-related illnesses continuing to rise.
The future of healthcare
A recent report suggests that the NHS needs to grow by almost a fifth if it is going to be able to cope with the demands of 21st-century life. With tightened budgets and ongoing cuts, though, improvements need to be made elsewhere if the NHS is to be able to meet the needs of younger generations. Despite younger people being more aware of their health and trying to live healthier lifestyles, the pressures of modern-day life are resulting in new healthcare challenges that need to be overcome.
The fact is the satisfaction with the NHS today sits at its lowest level for more than a decade - and with the ever-demanding younger generations coming of age, it’s really important that the healthcare industry adapts and changes accordingly. Technology is one of the enablers that can allow people to work smarter, not harder. From mobile apps to book doctors appointments to live chats replacing face-to-face therapy sessions, embracing technology could transform the healthcare industry by giving patients back control of their health, as well as helping to improve long waiting times.
Want to find out more about technology and the future of the NHS? Check out our recent blogs on the topic below: