The way my Gen Z daughter navigates her own healthcare inspired me. It got me thinking about her generation as a whole. Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, make up 40% of global consumers—carrying over $140 billion in buying power. The eldest members of Gen Z, ages 18 to 25, have already entered the market. So we’d be smart to pay attention to their behaviors and preferences as healthcare marketers.
One myth seems to permeate this generation when it comes to healthcare.
Gen Z doesn’t go to the doctor. From my perspective, it seems a bit more nuanced than that. I enlisted The 3rd Eye’s Insights & Intelligence team to see how Gen Z consumers behave in healthcare. And lo and behold, the myth was proved false. Gen Zers do go to the doctor. Their process just diverges slightly from previous generations.
Gen Z as healthcare consumers
Coming of age as digital natives, Gen Z’s preferences follow a similar pattern. They favor the convenience of virtual interactions over in-person options. This factors into their choice in primary care providers, their attraction to wearable devices, and their telehealth behaviors.
Even before the pandemic, Gen Z patients were the least likely to have a PCP, or primary care physician. In the meantime, PCPs remained the norm for older generations.
Who has a PCP?
55% Gen Z
76% Gen Xers
84% Baby Boomers
85% Silent GenerationAccenture Insights, February 2019
This tendency to avoid primary care physicians is the culprit: it’s perpetuated the myth that Gen Z doesn’t go to the doctor at all.
When it comes to telehealth, the opposite is true. Gen Z was on the telehealth train before the pandemic, so they’re ahead of the game. Even in early 2020—before we hit peak pandemic—they felt more comfortable with in-home testing than their older counterparts.
47% of Gen Z was comfortable with at-home blood tests versus 34% of Baby Boomers; and 47% were comfortable with in-home genetic tests versus 30% of Baby Boomers (Deloitte Insights).
As digital natives, navigating the telehealth platforms for in-home testing was simple for Gen Z.
And once we were hit with quarantine, Gen Z’s use of telehealth was only propelled further forward, with Millennials not too far behind. In 2021, 44% of Gen Z and Millennials reported they’d switch providers if telehealth visits weren’t offered.
Already comfortable with digital alternatives, Gen Zers understandably reported even more dissatisfaction with conventional healthcare services than previous generations.
What is Gen Z dissatisfied with in healthcare?
“86% of Gen Z who have had a virtual healthcare visit would choose to have another.” (Deloitte Digital, August 2020).
Questioning their doctors
Growing up online seems to have empowered Gen Z to take healthcare into their own hands, using virtual services where the patient has more control. BUT, they’re still less likely to question their doctor during an appointment.
Over half of seniors and boomers were extremely likely to be comfortable telling their doctors when they disagree with them, while less than half of Gen Z and Millennials were likely to do the same.
% that was extremely/very likely to tell their doctors when they disagree with them
46% of Gen Z
46% of Millennials
50% of Gen X
57% of Baby boomers
63% of SeniorsDeloitte Digital, August 2020
Digitally savvy Gen Z may be more likely to do some online research before an appointment. But they’re less likely to speak up when they are at the doctor’s office.
This tells me that they’re hungry to know more about what’s happening in their healthcare treatments—but unwilling or too uncomfortable to ask.
Sometimes people don’t ask questions because they don’t know how to ask.
As healthcare marketers and brand owners, we can help. We can not only empower Gen Z to ask more questions, but also teach them how.
Gen Z also believes that health tracking with wearable devices is more effective than older generations do. Like with telehealth, this tech-savvy generation of digital natives gravitates to convenient technological alternatives.
Wearables encourage us to not only monitor our physical health, but see how variations impact our everyday life. Compare this to traditional health—where your vitals are only ever checked in the doctor’s office.
87% of Gen Z reported that using wearables has helped them, in line with their thinking of health more holistically.
A move to holistic health
Holistic health goes beyond just the physical. It’s incorporating health into all aspects of your life: physical, mental, social, and even spiritual for some.
We know that Gen Z prefers virtual visits to in-person care, and we know they’re dissatisfied with traditional healthcare and PCPs—but why?
Well, if primary care physicians aren’t addressing anything but physical health, this could very well deter Gen Zers from seeking them out.
Insider Fitt called Gen Z “the ultimate wellness consumer.” They noted that Gen Z has taken some of Millennials’ views of holistic health and combined it with a pragmatism gathered from being raised in more tumultuous times—reporting that “they integrate health and wellness into their day-to-day life but, as digital natives, will heavily vet the brands they select into their routines.”
Holistic Health and Telehealth
Holistic health and telehealth go hand-in-hand, as digital providers often diverge from traditional healthcare. With a simple Google search, they can find digital services for health needs that go beyond what PCPs provide.
Gen Z’s digital prowess plays into their preference. It’s natural that a generation raised online would gravitate toward convenient virtual options. But they’re also on track to be the most educated generation yet, so it’s a bit naive to think they’ve abandoned healthcare altogether.
When it comes to mental health, for instance, they seek treatment far more than older generations do.
“Gen Z were more likely to have received treatment or gone to therapy (37%) compared to Millennials (35%), Gen Xers (26%), Baby Boomers (22%), and the Silent Generation (15%).”
The data tells us that health and wellness is at the top of Gen Z’s mind, especially as they come to age in a global pandemic.
- 91% of Gen Z report physical or psychological problems due to stress, and they are more likely than any other cohort to have gone to therapy.
- 72% say they view healthy eating as an integral part of both their physical and mental health.
- 60% believe that the pandemic’s single most important effect on society will be taking care of one’s health.
The Health and Wellness Industry
Gen Z’s move towards a more holistic view of health and their focus on the convenience of telehealth align with the trends we’re seeing in the health and wellness industry as a whole. T3E’s CCO Rob mentioned that in 2022, “we’re challenging the paradigm of what’s expected from health and wellness brands”—which is parallel to what Gen Z is doing.
They’re challenging the paradigm of what’s expected from traditional healthcare.
Gen Z and women’s health
As a non-Gen Z woman, I, like many others, grew up in a world where conversations about women’s health were taboo. So, we avoided the topic with everyone but our gynecologist.
Gen Z confronts the shame and stigma they’ve inherited head on. They’re more comfortable speaking openly about uterine and vaginal health.
For instance, Gen Zers are more critical than Millennials of euphemistic terms like “feminine wash,” preferring a more honest and open approach to describing a product. And 86% of Gen Zers reported that they don’t see menstruation as a taboo topic anymore.
Even when it comes to something as simple as talking about periods, Gen Z is pushing the conversation—being more open than previous generations.
A study of women ages 18-38 compared the mindset of Gen Z and Millennials surrounding menstruation. It found that both “are shifting the mindset and conversation when it comes to reproductive health, with Gen Z being the most outward.” It noted that:
“While 72% of Gen Zers feel menstrual shame exists—compared to 58% of Millennials—Gen Zers (16%) are also less likely than their millennial counterparts (21%) to think of menstruation as ‘gross.’”
Gen Z brings me a lot of hope. As we noted in 4 Women’s Health Tools That Could Use A Revamp, there’s still a lot of progress to be made in women’s health. We can learn a lot from Gen Z’s willingness to speak openly on topics long considered taboo, because starting a conversation can make all the difference.
How do we serve Gen Z as marketers?
Gen Z’s preferences show us the future of healthcare. Many of us are adapting to the preferences of our Gen Z kids. We value digital convenience more than ever. And since the pandemic, we’re considering health in all aspects of our lives.
So what can you do as a marketer or health and wellness brand to serve your Gen Z consumer?
Gen Z values convenience and expects telehealth, so put time and energy into your digital patient experience.
Preferring digital interactions, Gen Z isn’t likely to question their doctor—so teach your Gen Z patients which questions they should be asking.
Gen Z values openness and cares about both their mental and physical health—so make a conscious movement towards providing holistic healthcare experiences.
But don’t forget about Gen Z. Because they do go to the doctor, and they are the future of healthcare.
To incorporate generational awareness into your marketing strategy and tap into The 3rd Eye’s expertise, connect with us here.