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“The end of the expert as we know it:” What Gen Z wants their health care to look like

July 18, 2022, 12:00 PM UTC
A young female adult sitting across her female doctor
Gen Z wants to communicate with their primary care provider in-person.
Getty Images

While many think of Gen Z as the virtual generation—the ones who find dates on TikTok and go to school in the metaverse—their workplace and health expectations provide a more complex picture. Researchers behind a new survey on Gen Z say employers and health care providers can learn from the habits of this group, which is joining the workforce at the highest rate. Whether it’s their prioritization of mental health or their holistic approach to health, employers should take note. 

“It goes without saying that the needs of Gen Z will make them the most influential generation, and their impact on health care will be significant,” said Alison Ryu, a partner at the investment fund Able Partners, who worked on the survey.

Roughly 65 million Americans are Gen Zers—born between 1997 and 2012—and they will make up about 30% of the workforce, with a collective income predicted to reach $33 trillion by 2030.

“People assume that because we are the first digital native generation that we only want to communicate with new technology,” said Jonah Stillman, co-founder of Gen Guru, and bestselling author of Gen Z @ Work. “But whether I meet you online or in person what I’m really looking for is just seamless communication.” 

Gen Z wants to see their doctor in person 

Even though they’re social media natives, the majority of Gen Zers want to see their doctor face to face. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents say they want to communicate with their primary care provider in-person. Half say convenient location is the number-one criteria for selecting a primary care provider, compared to 29% who prioritize telehealth capabilities. Only one-third of those surveyed say they use an app for their health care needs. 

“They see health as this continuous important investment,” Ryu says. “Taking the time to build an authentic connection with their health care provider really makes sense.” A yearly checkup doesn’t cut it, she says.  

Many Gen Zers started their jobs virtually. Some have never met their colleagues in-person. Some have never met their doctors in-person. While Zoom wasn’t challenging to figure out, how to maintain those social interactions may have been, Stillman says.

“Gen Z is really hungry for these in-person interactions to gain social capital,” Stillman says. 

Gen Z wants mental health benefits at work 

Over half of those surveyed (63%) say mental health care is the number-one workplace benefit they want after a 401(k). They are overwhelmingly comfortable speaking about mental health, largely breaking away from the stigma associated with it in the past. Still, they are least likely to frequently talk about mental health with managers and colleagues (43% say they never talk about their mental health at work).

“I think we should be … thinking about the role of mental health as a really interesting front door to the overall system,” said Elana Berkowitz, founding partner at Springbank Collective and researcher on the survey. “If we can deliver really compelling mental health solutions that are accessible and high quality, we may be able to engage this generation in a different way.”

This comes as 53% of respondents say they deal with a behavioral health condition, while almost 75% report having anxiety or depression. 

“[Gen Z has] the expectation that corporate America is understanding that in today’s world, the focus should be a little less on where, when, and how my job’s done and more on the outcome and overall employee happiness,” Stillman says.

Gen Z values social media for health information 

While they want to see their doctors in person, Gen Z also values the power of social media to connect them with resources. Sixty percent of Zoomers say social media influencers impact their decisions about their mental health. One in five teens and young adults report that social media is important for receiving support (20%) and feeling less alone (21%).

Stillman sees this as “the end of the expert as we know it.” Many Zoomers come to doctor appointments with their own input and “do their homework,” he says.

“There are a number of ways in which a lot of survey respondents feel the conventional health care system is not working for them,” Berkowitz says.

Researchers say this perspective opens the door for employers and health providers to offer a range of modalities that may work for people looking to better their overall health. 

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