Prescription for Change

Millennials are lonely: Your primary care strategy could help them

by Meredith Crenca and Emily Heuser

One recent survey found that 1 in 5 millennials report having no close friends. With so many people experiencing some form of loneliness, the U.S. is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Studies on the health effects of loneliness paint a grim picture, linking loneliness to high blood pressure, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Not to mention, young adults who report being lonely are more likely to experience mental health problems and be out of work than their peers. Loneliness is complicated, and clinicians may be unsure how to reach this generation.

How to scale team-based primary care according to financial risk

To date, most health system initiatives focused on social isolation have targeted the senior population. But when it comes to primary care services, Advisory Board's newest consumer survey results suggest millennials are the most likely to take advantage of services that would help them make social connections.

For example, when we asked respondents which social services they would most likely use if their primary care office offered it for free, we found: Millennials were three times as likely to choose "help finding friends and social activities (or help with loneliness)" than respondents over age 50.

Which services would you be most likely to use, if your primary care clinic offered them for free?

Curious to see what else millennials consumers are seeking from primary care? Check out our infographic

Tomorrow's opportunities

Some design firms are working with hospitals to create common areas and group rooms within the hospital to promote positive interactions among young patients with behavioral health needs. Other health systems are experimenting with screening for social isolation in the outpatient setting. But to date, there are few systematic solutions for addressing loneliness—at any age.

Perhaps one of the most immediate opportunities is tackling loneliness within your organization. Health care employees are just as susceptible to loneliness as individuals in other industries. For many clinicians, changes in care delivery processes have led to more isolated work streams. The challenge is that staff have limited opportunities to meaningfully connect with their peers. To address this, some organizations begin every meeting or huddle with someone sharing a 90-second story. Others establish weekly sessions for staff to share stories and reflect on experiences in a group setting. This inside-out approach is a powerful place to start.

If your organization is doing something innovative to address social isolation in the primary care setting, we'd love to hear from you! Please email Clare Wirth at wirthcl@advisory.com.

What your patients expect from their care—from millennials to Gen X

Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation—what exactly do each of these groups want from their health care?

We surveyed thousands of consumers across the United States to find out. Download this infographic to learn how to tailor your messages and target your investments to each generation.

Get the Infographic