Millennials have the world at their fingertips but it's harming their health

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Millennials may be the first digital natives, but that love of technology could also be harming their health, according to the Path to Better Health Study by CVS Health (NYSE: CVS). The study, now in its second year, explores consumer health goals and asks providers what they need to help patients reach those goals.

Millennials a generation that came of age during the rise of technology and that has led a more transient, flexible lifestyle have more difficulty meeting new people or making social connections compared to other generations, notably consumers 65 and older, according to the study, which was published today. More than half (53 percent) of consumers aged 18–34 say they don’t know where to meet new people, compared to just 27 percent of people 65 and older and 35 percent of those aged 51–64. Nearly half (48 percent) of millennials also say they no longer have a desire to be social, compared to just 20 percent of consumers 65 and older and 35 percent of those aged 51–64, suggesting that older consumers may have different social needs.

That social isolation may be leading to increased problems with mental illness and abuse of alcohol. Forty-two percent say they struggle or know someone else struggling with mental illness (the highest of all age groups), and 35 percent cite having had problems or knowing someone who has had problems with alcohol use in the last five years (compared to 26 percent overall).

Consumers of all ages rate themselves as either good or excellent across most of the six well-being dimensions: character strengths (72 percent), sense of purpose and social connectedness (63 percent each), emotional health (62 percent), physical health (58 percent) and financial security (47 percent).

“Millennials who helped pioneer the use of the Internet and social media have a significant influence on health care transformation. Their need for greater support in making and maintaining social connections, and in achieving their mental health goals, indicates that we need a system focused not just on physical health but on total health,” said Karen S. Lynch, Executive Vice President, CVS Health, and President of Aetna. “Our physical health is directly impacted by other important aspects of our lives including our mental health, social connections and financial health. The good news is that people are getting proactive about addressing these holistic concerns. Now, our health system must adapt to how consumers are approaching health care and be more inclusive and supportive of people’s total health.”

Integrating digital health tools to support personal connection Transforming the health system in a way that balances digital health support with personal connection will be key to providing millennials and future generations the support they need in the ways most convenient to them.

Millennials, predictably, show a greater reliance on digital technologies, including health tools. Sixty-four percent of consumers aged 18–34 feel that being able to monitor their health is very or somewhat important, compared to 52 percent of those aged 65 and up. Their use of digital health tools varies as well, according to their respective health priorities. Electronic diaries or apps (28 percent), wearable trackers (27 percent) and calorie counters (26 percent) are the top three tools millennials use to track their personal health. Consumers 65 and older, meanwhile, use blood pressure monitors with tracking capabilities (24 percent), wearable trackers (15 percent) and blood or glucose monitors (13 percent) the most to track their personal health.

Although nearly half of millennials (46 percent) still value in-person walk-in office hours to communicate with their providers, their reliance on primary care physicians is the lowest of any consumer group. Just 45 percent say they receive routine care for minor illness or injury from a primary care physician, compared to 59 percent of those aged 35-50 and 76 percent of those 65 and older. Another 32 percent, meanwhile, receive such care at non-emergency walk-in clinics, and 14 percent at their local pharmacies the highest among all generations for both care settings.

“The existing system of episodic health care is falling short, but we are working to reinvent health care to better connect with all consumers, including millennials, and improve their overall well-being,” said Alan Lotvin, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer, CVS Health. “Through multiple initiatives, including our goal to dramatically expand HealthHUB services and locations, we are providing digital and physical connections that feel like essentially every other interaction in our life seamless, simple and easily available. By engaging consumers through local connections and providing personalized, daily support, we can radically change the way consumers engage in their health. That’s where we are going as a company and where we need to go as a nation.”