Everyone is Different – So is our Perception of Health
Millennials grew up in a world in which technology, information, and communication started to grow at a rapid pace. Typically identified as the generation born between 1979 to 1997, Millennials had front row seats to many major worldwide shifts. They sat and watched as our world grew more connected globally through various world events such as the end of the Cold War and the invention of the internet.
Middle-class Millenials had Gen X parents who mostly wanted to give their children everything that they didn’t have growing up and often had parents who were much more involved in their lives. Advertising and commercialism were at an all-time high, with products like toys and unhealthy foods targeted specifically for children and preteens.
There were also more structured public school programs devoted to certain topics including but not limited to, drug abuse education, sex education, nutrition, and physical education. The programs were either in their infancy or needed updating, but they did exist at the time. The advent of the internet also made information regarding health topics more readily available from the mid-90’s onward.
Millennials today had their optimistic worldview shattered from 2001 until today. This is due in part to witnessing multiple violent events such as September 11th, the war in Iraq, and school shootings. They have also felt the blow of an economic depression, the housing crisis of 2008, and a multitude of political and corporate scandals. The present combined with past events created an interesting consequence to how Millennials both view and manage their health.
Millenials do not compartmentalize health like their grandparents. Nor do they push their own health aside for the sake of others like their parents. Instead, they look at health as a series of parts that mesh into a whole. They work hard to balance out their mental, physical, and nutritional health through a long-term holistic point of view. This is due in part to the Millennial generation continuing their education like their parents and incorporating technology into their daily routines.
Things like Fitbit and health apps remind them when and what to eat as well as when and how to exercise. Social media has also enabled them to become more accountable to their peers and connect them to other people who are also going through the same nutritional and exercise programs as they are.
However, they avoid doctors visits, much like their parents. There are a few reasons that they don’t go to the doctors. It could be that they are skeptical of the health institution as a whole, or that they are afraid of getting bad news. The main reason for over 50% of Millennials who avoid going to the doctor is the cost of healthcare bills. They are a fiscally anxious bunch who’d rather invest in preventative health care than worry about unaffordable medical expenses.
Throughout multiple generations, the definition of health has changed thanks to ongoing education and awareness. What used to be considered private, compartmentalized, or stigmatized, has morphed into something that people talk about and take into their own hands.
But we still have a long way to go.
We still need comprehensive health care for every generation. We also need to make health education and healthy eating options available for families with lower incomes. The good news is that we are finally hitting a plateau in things like adult obesity, and child obesity has slowly seen a decrease, but we still need to do better.