In 2016, Dr. Vonda Wright teamed up with Natalie Bencivenga and Campos Research to form “action groups” to study what millennials want concerning healthcare. In this article we ask the question to a generation, “what is health?”, and here is what they had to say.
There are approximately 110 million people that fit into the so-called ‘Millennial’ generation in the US. This is a third of the total population and the second-largest electoral age group after the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 -1964).
As we move forward, what changes can this generation expect? What makes millennial women tick? And what do they want for their health?
“If one part of you isn’t well, then you aren’t healthy”
According to Natalie, there is a strong desire to move away from traditional ways of evaluating the healthcare system in this country based on life expectancy and only treating physical problems.
Instead, Millennials want to see the destigmatization of mental health and give equal importance to the psychological and spiritual aspects of a person when diagnosing an illness. Millennials believe that the “one cure fits all” mentality is outdated, and that the personalization of healthcare is of utmost importance in order to treat an individual as effectively as possible.
Millennials don’t think it should be taboo to talk about hard-hitting or often overlooked issues such as suicide, addiction, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and body dysmorphia. They want these issues to be openly discussed as often as possible in order to create a comfortable and safe environment in which people can share their problems easily and without embarrassment or shame.
Right now, the healthcare system focuses on the treatment of illnesses and injuries. What Millennials would like to see is a perspective shift to focus on prevention. This would mean educating people from an early age about good practices for a healthy body and mind.
As individuals, we need to invest more in our own self-care. Natalie says that women need to start taking more personal responsibility and better care of their bodies, minds, and overall health.
“There’s a difference between self-interest and selfishness.”
Eating well, exercising, meditation, self-care, and good relationships are all part of creating a healthy body and mind. This will lead to preventing physical and mental problems that might arise down the line.
Natalie believes that it is unrealistic to go from 0 to 100%, but if we evolve our routines slowly(1% at a time) we will eventually have a sustainable way of staying fit and healthy.
“For example, you could eat plant-based meals one day a week, rather than go full Vegan overnight or at all.”
In Dr. Wright’s upcoming book “Live More” she discusses how we can bridge the gap between knowing what is good for us and actually doing it.
RESEARCH, RESPONSIBILITY & RELATIONSHIP
Technology and the internet have given all of us the ability to find out about everything under the sun. This means that we have the ability to “take health into our own hands” according to Natalie.
“Nobody cares more about yourself than yourself.”
Natalie believes that we should take a proactive approach to our own health and look into potential causes and treatments to the health problems we are facing. However, we also need to have balance and remind ourselves that we are not health experts.
“How can we know whether what we read is valid or not?”
For this reason, Millennials want to have a relationship with their healthcare professional where they can feel comfortable asking sensitive questions or presenting articles and research they’ve found on the web without being dismissed.
“There’s nothing wrong with shopping around for the right healthcare professional. You need to get someone that fits you.”
Modernization of hospitals and clinics are also on the ‘to-do’ list for Millennials. They want to create comfortable, modern, and stress-free spaces that promote a feeling of well-being and safety. The sterile white corridors, brutal plastic chairs, and bright white hospital lights will be a thing of the past if Millenials get their way.
“There’s nothing more stressful than a sterile waiting room.”
SEX, CONTROL & FAMILY-PLANNING
Gone are the days of the 60’s ‘Peace and Love’ revolution in which sex was seen as a source of pleasure to be shared openly. For Millennials, sex is a policy issue as well as a pleasure.
“We grew up with AIDS and Madonna saying ‘wrap it up.’”
Although Millennials are no strangers to one-night stands, they are fully aware of the need to be prudent when it comes to sex. Millennial women understand that a fulfilling sexual experience is part of well-being. They also want control over their choices regarding birth-control and access to abortion, and demand that these are addressed in large-scale policymaking.
“Our generation is the first generation to have birth-control included in our health insurance.”
Millennial women also have a very different approach to family planning from the generations before them. For the Boomers and Xers, getting married and having kids happened in their early to mid-20s, sometimes teens, and as their children (millennials) grew, the plight of their mothers became all too easily observed.
Divorce rates went up as generations of women found the courage to escape what they saw as the unfulfilling trap of being a housewife. Even if many had a happy family life, millennial women learned a lesson.
Many Millennial women are putting off marriage and children in favor of career and financial independence. They concentrate on their studies and career for a longer period of time than their generational precedents. They also believe that family planning and financial security go together. In other words, they want to have the money to support their children and themselves in good times and bad.
Although they don’t enter into marriage hoping for divorce, they are realistic in regards to the idea that it can happen and want to be fully self-sufficient and prepared for that.
The bottom line?
Millennials, sometimes known as ‘Premium Millennials’ as they are highly educated and have careers, want to provide choices, progress, and protective policy for all women regardless of race, religion, educational background, or age. How bad can that be?
Who are the Millennials?
Anyone who is aged 24 to 39 today is a Millennial. Millennials grew up in the Information Age, where the traditional industries shifted to an economy based on Information Technology. They are sometimes known as ‘Digital Natives’, as they haven’t known a world without computers and are regularly engaged on Social Media.
Natalie Bencivenga is a journalist, media personality and former SEEN editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She co-produced and co-hosted the mid-Atlantic Emmy nominated biweekly web show: Setting the SEEN. A licensed social worker, she pens the digitally nationally syndicated weekly advice column, Ask Natalie at UExpress.com, the home of Dear Abby and Miss Manners. Her column debuted at number three on the site. Prior to being an advice columnist, she ran her own online lifestyle magazine for five years and worked as a licensed mobile therapist, with her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She was also accepted to medical school in 2007 but deferred her seat to follow her creative passions. She also runs a small digital media consulting company and works with clients from all over the country.