Millennials Open to Employer Prompting on Wellness

Millennials put a lower priority on medical care than do other generations, but they are the most likely to want employers to play an active role in supporting their overall health and well-being.

Millennials are the least likely to participate in activities focused on prevention and maintaining or improving physical health compared with other generations, according to an analysis from Aon Hewitt.

About half (54%) of Millennials have had a physical in the last 12 months, compared with 60% of Generation X and 73% of Baby Boomers. In addition, just 39% say preventive care is one of the most important things to do to stay healthy, compared with 49% of Generation X and 69% of Baby Boomers.

Millennials are also less likely to participate in a healthy eating/weight management programs (21%), compared with Generation X (23%) and Baby Boomers (28%). But they are the most likely generation to engaging in regular exercise (63%), compared with 52% of Gen X and 49% of Baby Boomers.

Despite their relative lack of action around prevention, Aon Hewitt’s analysis says, Millennials are the most likely generation to embrace support from employers in their overall health and well-being. More than half (52%) say “living or working in a healthy environment” is influential to their personal health, compared with 42% of Gen X and 35% of Baby Boomers.

Millennials are also more open to having their direct manager play an active role in encouraging them to get and stay healthy (53%), compared with 47% of Gen X and 41% of Baby Boomers. Millennials are most likely to participate in an employee assistance program (16%) compared with Gen X (10%) and Baby Boomers (8%). 

“Given their younger age, most Millennials are relatively healthy, so they may not feel a sense of urgency to go to the doctor regularly or eat a well-balanced diet,” says Ray Baumruk, employee research leader at Aon Hewitt. “However, the lack of health prevention and maintenance when they’re young may lead to greater health risks as they get older. Employers should communicate the importance of participating in health-related activities now to avoid serious health issues later in life.”

Karen Marlo, vice president, National Business Group on Health, agrees. “Employers have a unique opportunity to engage and motivate the Millennial generation, and they are likely to get the strongest results by demonstrating the benefits of establishing healthy habits and behaviors today, not just tomorrow.”

To effectively reach Millennials, Aon Hewitt experts suggest that employers:

Understand what motivates them. It is critical for employers to understand what motivates and engages Millennials. More than half of this group (55%) report their motivation is “to look good,” and not as much to “avoid illness.” Employers should tailor their strategy and communications to show how poor health can impact an individual’s energy and/or appearance.

Know how to reach your audience. Millennials are significantly more likely to prefer mobile applications (apps), texts, or popular social media channels including Facebook and Twitter (or internal sites such as Yammer and Chatter) to access both general and personal health information. Employers should explore social channels such as blogs geared to individuals with certain health conditions, location-based tools such as Foursquare and media-sharing sites such as Pinterest. Short-form video sharing services such as Vine may also be effective channels to reach this generation. Companies should also take advantage of apps and mobile-friendly websites to help engage employees in health and wellness campaigns. This might include resources that coordinate an individual’s fitness, food and stress management programs, resources and activities. However, regardless of channel, it is important to ensure their communication delivers the authenticity and hyper-relevance that Millennials have come to expect in exchange for their attention and action.

Make it easy and convenient. Forty percent of Millennials say they are more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if these are “easy or convenient to do.” Employers should remove barriers to helping this generation create good health choices and habits by focusing on programs that meet their work/life balance. For example, employers should consider implementing walking meetings or group fitness events or offering on-site health and fitness programs such as yoga or Zumba.

Add an element of competition. Millennials are the most likely generation to be interested in “friendly competitions.” Employers may want to explore adding game mechanics and player-centric design, as well as competitions to motivate and engage Millennials. Companywide fitness challenges, or programs providing access to a social Web platform where individuals can build teams and initiate their own mini-challenges, may also be effective.

The Aon Hewitt analysis is based on data from the 2014 Consumer Health Mindset report, a joint survey of more than 2,700 U.S. employees and their dependents conducted by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company.