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The Keckley Report

Millennials and Healthcare: What Message are they Sending?

By May 30, 2016March 1st, 2023No Comments

Millennials are the more important to healthcare than the industry recognizes: organizations that miss the signals they’re sending risk failure.

Who are the Millennials? They’re the 75.4 million young, tech savvy, restless generation of 18-34 year olds who compose one- third of the U.S. workforce today and half by 2030. They’re first generation digital natives, comfortably moving between personal devices and online programs to navigate every domain of their lives. They value authenticity and prefer companies known for their social responsibility. They are suspicious of BIG anything aka big government, big banks, and big corporations, and live with under constant pressure: half Millennials (45%) report feeling nervous due to stress at least monthly, and more than half (52%) say that their stress levels have increased over the last five years. They volunteer, love coffee, organic food and craft breweries, and watch more movies online than in a theatre. And last week, the Census Bureau released data indicating 36% now live with a parent—the highest since the Great Depression—due to their anxiety about their ability to fend for themselves alone. 

Why are they important to healthcare? Fundamentally, they challenge the fundamental tenets of how we operate the system. 

•    They want to be treated as individuals not as patients. They use technologies that provide insight about their diagnoses and treatment options and compare notes with their social networks. They are not dependent on “their physician” to be the sole fount of knowledge and avoid the ‘M Deity’ personalities in the clinicians they rank highest. They’re not passive users; they’re active decision-makers. And their needs, values, social circumstances and expectations matter in how they use and interact with the health system. They want to be heard, not just expected to listen.

•    They want a health system that addresses health and well-being. They see the system embalanced toward sick care and believe profits drive much of that focus. They see opportunities for healthiness—nutrition, preventive health, prophylactic dentistry, and behavioral health et al—as the necessary front door to the health system and common sense policies to appropriate end of life care. They find health insurance unaffordable, confusing and optional. And they imagine a system of health wherein they connected to a reputable team of providers they choose who follow them through their continuing cascade of job, life, and scenery changes. 

What’s it mean in healthcare?

•    The Millennials are a formidable workforce today and tomorrow in healthcare. More than 6 million workers in healthcare today is a Millennial: the vast majority work in support roles, and many on an hourly basis. While attention to the health and well-being of our skilled professions is understandable, increased attention to the rest is warranted. They see inconsistencies between corporate values and the behaviors that are rewarded. They see how the organization balances its profit and purpose. And they’re unafraid to share their views in social media or as whistleblowers intent on righting wrongs in the workplace and society.

•    Millennials are purchasers. On average, they spend more than $4500 per capita per year on a variety of healthcare products and services. They look for convenience, price transparency and connectivity to their electronic community. They’re brand loyal and approach healthcare holistically. They’re the market driving growth in retail clinics, alternative providers and prescription foods, and they share those experiences with their peers. They’re an attractive market today, not just seniors in waiting. 

•    Millennials are voters. The surge of interest in the Sanders campaign and anti-incumbency following in the Trump campaign have one attribute in common: large followings of disaffected Millennials who are fed up with the status quo. Healthcare is currently an issue in Campaign 2016 largely reserved for female Democratic voters in the primary contests. It will be a factor in the fall, and Millennials’ views about healthcare will impact the outcome. 

What messages are they sending?

•    We’re watching.
•    We’re concerned.
•    We’re tired of excuses.
•    We matter today! 

Dismissing the powerful influence of Millennials today is risky. They’re sending powerful messages about the healthcare system: we should listen.


Today is Memorial Day—a special day when we celebrate the lives of our fallen soldiers who served us selflessly and gave their full measure. The majority of those who fell were Millennials as is the composition of our military today. Let’s honor their memory by listening to the messages Millennials are sending.

Fact File:

•    Millennials, defined as those ages 18-34, have exceeded baby boomers (55 to 69) as the nation’s largest generation. Last year millennials totaled 75.4 million. (US Census Bureau)
•    62% are of American descent, 19% Hispanic, 14% African American and 5% Asian
•    Employment status: unemployment rate is 10%
•    Median income has shrunk 11.2% since 2000 while student loan debt for those attending college has increased from $16,000 to $28,000 (Mother Jones)

Campaign 2016:
•    32% think 2016 election process is working as it should.
•    Millennials favor Sanders (46%) over Clinton (35%).
•    In the 2014 midterm elections, 21% of Millennials voted vs. 36.3% of the voting-eligible population overall 

Their work environment:
•    Millennials have difficulty landing jobs that keep them engaged. Millennials have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S:  29% of employed millennials are “engaged” at work. (Gallup)
•    Half say they feel good about the amount of money they have to spend, and 40%are “thriving” in any one aspect of well-being. 
•    63% of Millennials want their employer to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important. About half of older Gen Xers and Boomers felt the same. (Brookings By LifeCourse research on the workforce 2012).
•    64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring. (Brookings By Intelligence Group study, reported in The Columbus Dispatch March 2014).
•    89% expressed a stronger likelihood that they would buy from companies that supported solutions to specific social issues. (Brookings By Cone Communications Social Impact Study of 1,200+ U.S. adults, October 2013)

Social purpose:
•    75% of millennials have made a financial donation to a not-for-profit organization.
•    71% of millennials have raised money for a not-for-profit organization
•    57% of millennials have volunteered for a not-for-profit organization
•    Over 60% of millennials will pay more for a product where the company is environmentally friendly.
•    70% of millennials say that a firm’s commitment to the community is a factor in their employment decisions.

Attitudes about the role of government:
•    48% say government should do more to solve problems, 37% say government is doing too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals, and 15 percent aren’t sure.
•    58% of millennials say Gov’t should spend more on Financial Assistance to the Poor, even if Higher Taxes Required
•    Nearly seven in 10 say government should guarantee health insurance and a living wage.
•    National Reason-Rupe survey found that 53% of 18-to-29-year-olds view socialism favorably.
•    32% think 2016 election process is working as it should.

Trust & Confidence in institutions – 
•    19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of those from the Silent Generation (born during the Depression through World War II), and 40% of  Boomers
•      66% of millennials think government is “usually inefficient and wasteful”:  57% percent of millennial Democrats, 69% of independents and 81% of Republicans. 
•    63% say gov’t regulators favor special interests over the public interest
•    58% say gov’t agencies generally abuse their power
•    55% think financial firms trustworthy;  yet, more than 80% use a retail bank and 78% utilized online payment methods (i.e. PayPal;
•    50% of millennials trust neither Democrats nor Republicans on the issue of privacy: 3 in 10 prefer Democrats, 2 in 10 trust Republicans and 5 of 10 think neither is fiscally responsible. 

Healthcare system utilization
•    Two-thirds have health insurance,. Of these, a third obtain it through their employer, 19% have individually purchased plans, 39% are on a parents’ plan, and 5% have health insurance policies through their university or college. Among those without coverage, 54% said they would obtain it by the deadline this year, and 44% planned to pay the federal fine instead.
•    Half use online comparison websites before using a provider or enrolling in insurance (PNC)
•    34% used a retail clinic in the past year

Opinions about healthcare:
•    71% think the federal government should guarantee health care coverage for all Americans. 
•    51% say they have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act
•    36% say they trust Democrats to handle health care overall.  
•    21% trust Republicans; a plurality (37%) say neither party can properly handle health care issues.
•    80% believe health costs are too high and unpredictable: Half have delayed care due to lack of money (Fierce Healthcare)



“Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse” United States Census Bureau
Release Number: CB15-113 June 2015. 

Decennial Census and American Community Survey. “Millennials defined as those 18 to 34 years old.”
Richard Fry “Millennials match Baby Boomers as largest generation in U.S. electorate, but will they vote?” PewResearchCenter May 2016. 

“Reason-Rupe 2014 Millennials Survey 2014.” 

Peter Bell and Nancy Cook “How Millennials Spend” The Atlantic 

“The Millennial Generation Research Review” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (2015). 

Jim Malervy “10 Facts about Millennials That Every Retailer Should Know” Anderson County Chamber of Commerce June 2015. 

Chris Matthews “Millennials have taken over the American workforce” Fortune May 2015. 

David Madland and Ruy Teixeira “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation” Progressive Studies Program at the Center for American Progress May 2009. 

“10 Facts about Millennials That Every Retailer Should Know.”     

“15 Economic Facts about Millennials” The Council of Economic Advisers October 2014.     

“Issues by the Numbers A new understanding of Millennials: Generational differences reexamined” Deloitte
October 2015. 

Fred Dews “11 Facts about the Millennial Generation” Brookings Doha Center June 2, 2014. 

Kevin Drum “Why Are Millennials in Love with Bernie Sanders?” Mother Jones February 2016. 

Heidi Cohen “30 Millennial Demographics You Need” Customer Market Research Insights February 2014.     

“The Millennials – The Politically Unclaimed Generation” The Reason-Rupe Spring 2014 Millennial Survey July 2014.