Millennials, a generation that now outnumbers the baby boomers, could be the key to alleviating burdens on our health care system and improving the health of future populations.

As health service delivery moves towards a more patient-centered “partnership” approach, millennials are becoming much more involved in their own health and lifestyle choices — and they expect  their primary health care providers to do the same. Millennials are constantly seeking information from varied sources, including social media, to stay informed on care options available to improve their overall health and well-being.  As a result, this generation values a trusted doctor-patient relationship for being able to make collaborative health-informed decisions, and expects the same level of involvement from their primary care providers. This move towards having more active and informed patients drives a preventative approach to health issues. 

Having less money to spend than previous generations, millennials tend to explore a range of cost-efficient options and innovative approaches to improving their health. They are considered “digital natives,” staying connected with each other and the world through social media. Millennials are early adopters of new approaches, and they are quick to adopt health-related trends. Over the recent years, millennials have been able to generate a cultural shift toward healthier lifestyles through the power of social media, including staying active, eating healthy, and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking.

As health care systems continue to be strained by the rising prevalence of chronic diseases and the health demands of the baby boom generation, millennials need to be actively involved in making populations healthier; recruiting them to champion individual ownership of one’s own health could drive positive health attitudes. Changing social norms and deeply entrenched attitudes takes generations, but millennials represent a unique opportunity to hasten positive changes.