5 ways Gen Z and Boomers differ on health

5 ways Gen Z and Boomers differ on health

Leanne Russell,

In the U.S. right now, the two largest generational groups constantly in the news are Millennials and Baby Boomers. The 2016 U.S. census estimates that Boomers (defined as ages 51-69) comprise 74.9 million of the population, and Millennials (defined as ages 18-34) an ever greater 75.4 million. There has recently emerged, however, a segment of Millennials that is not yet recognized by the U.S. census, but actively tracked by marketers – Generation Z. Loosely defined as 18-22 year olds, this group is unique in that they’ve been surrounded by computer and mobile phone technology since birth, and this tech savvy plays into the consumer choices they make.

In February 2018, Pega surveyed 1,004 people from across the United States to gain insights on a range of health and healthcare issues. On a handful of questions, the responses from the youngest segment of the age group (ages 18-24, which we will consider as Gen Z) and Boomers 65 years and older were vastly different. We’ve highlighted five of our most interesting findings below.

1. How likely are you to focus on your health and well-being when you feel financially stable?

In our survey, 70 percent of all respondents say they are more likely to focus on their health and well-being when they feel financially stable. For 18-24 year olds, more than half (52 percent) agreed that financial stability was important when focusing on health. Conversely, only 21 percent of 65+ Boomers thought that financial stability was a prerequisite for keeping health and well-being top of mind.

2. To what extent do financial incentives and rewards encourage you to make healthy choices?

Fifty-six percent of the overall survey pool strongly agreed or agreed that financial incentives and rewards would be influential in making healthy choices. However, these numbers fluctuate at both ends of the age spectrum. For Gen Z, a much higher 71 percent would be motivated by incentives and rewards, while only 43 percent of 65+ Boomers saw these as a motivator.

3. Do you track your eating habits and exercise on mobile applications?

Not surprisingly, Gen Z shows more affinity toward mobile device usage. Forty-two percent of 18-24 year olds use mobile apps to track eating and exercise habits, compared to 19 percent of 65+ Boomers.

4. To what extent do you agree that someone you know has inspired you to make positive changes to your health?

The responses suggest that social circles can influence Gen Z. A total of 67 percent (31 percent strongly agree, 36 percent agree) that they have been inspired to make positive changes to their health by someone they know. For 65+ Boomers, only 19 percent strongly agree with this statement. In total, 53 percent of 65+ Boomers consider themselves to be inspired by someone they know, which is still a majority, but well below the results for Gen Z.

5. Where do you most often see your healthcare provider?

Fifty-seven percent of the total survey group say they most often see their healthcare provider in a private practice setting, and 15 percent in a hospital setting. But when we break down the responses by age groups, the statistics vary greatly. A large majority of 65+ Boomers (76 percent) visit their healthcare provider in a private practice setting. Gen Z fluctuates more widely in where they choose to receive care. Only 33 percent see a healthcare provider in a private setting. A combined 61 percent visit a healthcare provider at other types of locations – hospital, ER, urgent care clinic, or pharmacy clinic setting.

Gen Z approaches healthcare differently

The most interesting takeaways from this survey data highlight differences in the way Gen Z consumers are thinking about health and interacting with health organizations, including:

  • Financial concerns affect health choices. Financial considerations are real for this group. Sixty-four percent of Gen Z report having less than $40 thousand per year in total household income. Only 41 percent of Gen Z identified as working either full- or part-time. The remainder are a mix of students and stay-at-home parents or spouses – which explains why financial incentives tied to health are so attractive.
  • Lack of a primary care physician. The combined 61 percent seeking care from a hospital, ER, urgent care clinic, or pharmacy setting, suggests that the majority of Gen Z consumers either do not have or do not have access to a primary care physician. The growing use of non-traditional healthcare delivery by Gen Z mirrors the trend Susan Taylor described in her recent blog, “The retailization of healthcare.”
  • The emerging importance of mobile and social channels. Gen Z’s greater use of technology and participation in social circles suggests that healthcare providers should consider incorporating mobile device and social channel capabilities and strategies into their outreach programs to engage with younger consumers.

Overall, these survey results remind us that Gen Z, Millennials, and Boomers are more than just statistical groups. They represent blocks of consumers whose buying and engagement patterns inform the products and services they purchase, as well as the delivery of those products and services.



  • Industry: Healthcare & Life Sciences
  • Topic: Mobile
  • Challenge: Digital Process Automation

About the Author

Leanne Russell, managing editor of Pega’s blog, helps high-tech leaders share their knowledge, experience, and success stories.