Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Millennials and health

Why the pharma industry has to reinvent itself to engage with the millennial generation
Millennials and health

Technologically engaged, ethically minded, experience-sharing liberals. Millennials - one of the most written about generations - but is the pharma industry paying them enough attention?

Millennials are a world apart from their predecessors. Digital natives, they are the first generation to grow up in a technologically connected world. They have also grown up in an era of disruption and change. They display a remarkable level of openness to new ways of doing things, a desire to buck convention and a preponderance to share these experiences with the entire world.

And this generation is coming of age as a priority segment to the pharma industry. Parents, carers and increasingly patients themselves, they exhibit a marked departure from previous generations in what they expect - and how they want to interact - with the healthcare sector. If the pharma industry wants - no needs - to be customer-centric we have to ask ourselves how we better engage with this defining generation.

Using photography to get beneath the skin of millennials
To better understand millennials, we conducted a piece of research around the world to uncover their attitude towards health and wellness.
To get to the heart of the moments that matter, our research combined two of the biggest cultural phenomena of our time: photography and smartphones.

One look at social media tells us that millennials love taking and sharing photographs: photography connects more deeply with people; it helps us understand their lives more intimately and it reveals hitherto hidden, emotional and unconscious truths about their behaviours, decisions and motivations.

Smartphones free us from the research shackles of the past and allow us to centre our research on the users: how they live, how mobile technology influences, dominates and enhances their behaviours, and how to be genuinely personalised and customer-centric.

This means that engagement in this research method is incredible - 100 people in 4 countries shared over 3,500 health and wellness moments in a single week.

So what can we tell you about millennials attitude towards health? 
Health is life and for millennials, health is a key priority - 94% talk about health and wellness regularly with friends and family and 69% have to be the first to know and share information around health and health trends. They spend freely on areas they feel will grant them better health - health foods, supplements, fitness - and see their spending increasing year-on-year.

But for millennials health is more than simply part of life. It is life. Whereas prior generations had ideas (and often fads) like diet or fitness as peripheral parts of their lives, health and wellness is embedded in almost everything that millennials do.

Healthy living is integrated into their daily routines, almost invisibly. They like to discover, dissect and develop routines so that the steps they take are small and sustainable. They don't diet; they just eat well. They don't talk about 'superfoods'; they just eat that sort of food (kale, quinoa, etc). They binge on the bad stuff, but it's always earned and burned quickly: compensatory behaviours not driven by guilt but absorbed into their lives as a perfectly normal balance: extreme is the new moderation.

But importantly - pharma isn't viewed as part of health. Being healthy doesn't mean taking medication - in fact it means the opposite. By being healthy and controlling your own healthy lifestyle you don't require pharma intervention. The desire for organic, natural and locally sourced sustenance does not sit well with the perceived chemical composition of all things pharmacological.

This begs the question. If health is embedded in life for millennials - where does this leave pharma? As an unwelcome gatecrasher or a helpful facilitator? Given the focus placed by millennials on maintaining good health, this should pose an opportunity for pharma to reframe medication as an additional option in their recipe for a healthy life. We need to understand how to integrate pharma into the health conversation so it is seen as a part of a synergistic solution.

The millennial strategy for health is one of self-reliance and prevention

Technology drives everything
Technology has definitively put health and wellness at the very epicentre of millennial life. Millennials' enthusiastic immersion in the digital world has created a 'no excuses' culture for curating their own health journey. Millennials embrace the huge amount of data technology provides with a belief that more data leads to better outcomes: data is the new oxygen. All of this is easy, proactive and personalised, and access to content is more accessible than ever before.

This greater access to information, social sharing and the fear of missing out on the latest news is increasing knowledge and empowering personal health decisions: there is no need to wait around for doctors or speak to experts at the gym when you can be an expert on your own personal health journey. But knowledge and autonomy puts a particular pressure on the healthcare system. Millennials are experts on themselves - and aren't afraid to express it. And if they need advice they are as likely to turn to social media as the pharma industry or even a physician. Pharma has to work increasingly hard to be seen as a valid port of call for credible and unbiased information.

But technology also offers opportunity. Pharma has been criticised as being slow to jump on the tech bandwagon, yet development of relevant offers provides an alternative route into the health conversation - and the chance for a closer connection with consumers.

Hope in science, but loathing of pharma
As a generation, millennials are positive and optimistic, and they embrace the future. They have a sense that many aspects of today's current health problems will be resolved - cures for Aids or cancer for example. For millennials, science rocks. They are seeing the advances science brings and have high hopes for more in the future.

However, alongside this spirited and hopeful outlook for what science will achieve, there is the juxtaposition of a cynicism around 'Big Pharma'. 
In the UK, it is blamed for high prescription charges, in the US for high insurance costs. In Brazil there are similar, even more extreme concerns about ignoring the lower social classes completely. They are the heart of a 'prescription medication' culture that is criticised in both the UK and the US, and globally is seen as making money off the back off the sick and poor. In China corruption and fake drugs emerge as an issue too. Many millennials feel pharma profits should be capped and the excess forced back into future R&D efforts or subsidising the vulnerable.

And yet millennials understand that the pharmaceutical industry is producing medicines, vaccines, cures for all - and importantly they appreciate this. In fact - who else would do it? There is acknowledgement that the Industry works hard to produce new advances. Negative opinions are not as entrenched as they may be for other generations, there is scope to turn the tide and forge a closer connection with millennials through creating a stronger sense of authenticity in the industry.

So how do we engage?
Understanding these different tensions in health and wellness is the root to the millennial heart. Millennials embrace health and wellness, accelerated by their fascination with technology. But they want to stay humanly connected to their fellow millennials - to feel empowered without feeling owned.

For pharmaceutical companies there is a job to be done to close the gap between the hope for the triumphs science can achieve in the future - and the reality of the pharma industry that is helping to make that happen. The millennial strategy for health is one of self-reliance and prevention. Helping them realise their goals, and being more transparent and communicative about pharma's innovation efforts to support them in their health ambitions, will likely create a more trusting relationship between the industry and the millennial consumer.

Di Adams is a partner at Hall & Partners; Richard Owen is a strategic partner at Tempo (a division of Hall & Partners)

31st January 2017

From: Marketing



Subscribe to our email news alerts

Featured jobs


Add my company
Genetic Digital

Genetic Digital specialises in developing digital marketing solutions for the healthcare, medical and pharmaceutical sectors. From developing a digital strategy,...

Latest intelligence

Environment: where does the pharmaceutical industry stand?
The communication challenge of helping he next generation to be healthier
As the pressure on the health service increases the health of the next generation is vital for everyone. How do we show positive attitudes and change behaviour while future proofing...
Are we losing sight of what the democratisation of healthcare really looks like?
We have a core responsibility as healthcare communicators to consistently drive for better inclusion, engagement and compliance. What does the ‘democratisation of healthcare’ really look like?...