Euromonitor survey reveals the drivers of digital health

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | villagemoon
Getty | villagemoon

Related tags Consumer attitudes Trends

Increasing interest in digital health solutions is being driven by consumers' need for convenience, lack of faith in pharmaceuticals, and their desire for exercise that can be easily integrated into their lifestyles, according to a new survey by Euromonitor International.

The global strategic market research provider's latest Health and Nutrition Survey was fielded online in January and February 2020 with over 21,000 respondents across 21 core markets around the world.

The data collected was prior to the full impact of COVID-19. However, the report’s author Amrutha Shridhar, research consultant of consumer insights at Euromonitor International, says the data remains relevant as it shows growing health-related trends which are likely to be even stronger in the wake of COVID-19.

The survey divides all respondents into their age in order to compare the differences in opinions of different generations. The generations are: Generation Z (born 1995-2012), Millennials (born 1985-1995), Generation X (born 1965-1985), and Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965). 

Desire for integrated exercise

The survey discusses the clear shift in desire for products that help them attain 'overall wellbeing', involving the prioritisation of mental and emotional health. With that, consumer perception of weight loss has changed recently, with more body-positive messaging and encouragement to live a well-rounded lifestyle instead of solely focusing on looks. That said, the survey reveals that weight management still remains high on the agenda when it comes to achieving that salient feeling of wellbeing.

One key way to manage weight for most of the younger respondents, was exercise. However, baby boomers, who are participating in minimal or no exercise are the most likely generation to be happy with their current level of exercise — often feeling that their regular activities during the day are enough and any additional exercise is unnecessary. These consumers are also least likely to enjoy exercise, with 12% saying that they are physically unable to exercise. Instead, they are more likely to make changes to their diet, such as reducing sugar consumption or eating less food overall.

Shridhar points out that brands and consumers creating exercise platforms, routines and products geared towards the older generations should therefore ensure that they can easily be integrated into already existing daily activities to fit current lifestyles.

Similar to baby boomers, Generation X consumers are fairly satisfied with how much they currently exercise. When asked what the main barriers to exercise are for them not exercising more, they cite not having enough time. For Generation X consumers, who are striving to increase their level of exercise, brands and companies need to ensure that their products and services are convenient to use and time-efficient. These could include on-the-go workouts or online and at-home workouts that allow for more flexibility to fit exercise into their busy lifestyles.

The younger generations - Generation Z and millennials - are least likely to be satisfied with how much they exercise and are striving to increase their exercise activity overall. However, time is the biggest barrier for them.

Innovations have already come to market to try to cater to this need but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Shridhar explains: "Over the last few years, there has been a growing trend of getting exercise wherever possible, with an increase of at-home or online fitness classes, offices partnering with gym membership schemes for their employees and consumers using their lunch break to jog or join a fitness class.

"However, Generation Z and millennials still feel that they do not have enough time to exercise as much as they want as other life priorities can often take precedence, such as spending time with friends or having a nice meal at a restaurant.

"Businesses have seen success in pairing various life priorities together, in order to resonate with these consumers and ensure they are making the most of their time spent exercising — whether this is through marketing exercise classes as a fun activity for friends or having additional features, such as a healthy brunch or happy hour drinks as a treat to be enjoyed after exercising,"​ explains Shridhar.  

"Brands and companies that can incorporate a variety of lifestyle habits and preferences into exercise products and services are likely to resonate with younger consumers who not only want to be fit but also enjoy their exercise."

Additionally, the survey revealed that Generation Z consumers who currently participate in minimal or no exercise are also the most likely to feel uncomfortable exercising in front of others.

For these consumers, Shridhar suggests brands ​ensure that their products and services encourage building confidence, self-esteem and overall mental well-being, adding that this generation may also be a prime market for at-home and online solutions.

Digital health

Medical behaviours and perceptions of healthcare practitioners and pharmaceuticals vary across generations. Though traditional channels and resources, such as doctors, medical practitioners and pharmaceuticals, are still widely used and consulted, baby boomers are most likely to have continuous check-ups and visit doctors frequently while the shift towards online platforms and availability of information sources elsewhere is changing behaviours. 

In general, it appears that Generation Z and millennials are more open to try and trust alternative avenues of healthcare information and are not solely reliant on traditional doctors or medical specialists, especially if this means that they will be able to resolve their healthcare issues conveniently and quickly.

Not only are millennials more likely to visit an alternative healthcare practitioner than other generations, but they also seem to be more willing to include pharmaceutical products in their lifestyles. The survey reveals that consumers from this generation feel that healthy living can be achieved through more natural means, such as dietary changes and exercise habits. Therefore, pharmaceutical brands and companies looking to target millennials need to ensure that their products fit into millennials’ overall lifestyles and are not solely focusing on an end healthcare goal.

Generation Z is the least likely to use over-the-counter medicine to treat themselves while they are suffering from illness or ailments. They are also more sceptical about the safety of pharmaceutical products in general compared to other generations. Similar to millennials, Generation Z feels that other lifestyle changes can be made to alleviate the impact of healthcare issues and ailments before resorting to pharmaceuticals.

Though both generations are steering towards natural living instead of relying solely on pharmaceutical products, their drivers for doing so are different - Millennials are more likely to be seeking a more balanced lifestyle which does not solely rely on medicine while Generation Z is more worried about the safety and long-term effects of pharmaceutical products.

Big contributing factors to preventing medical visits include high costs, no reason to visit, too much hassle and fear / anxiety. Barriers, such as high cost, hassle and not enough time, are overcome by online healthcare platforms and are the main reasons consumers are using these alternative channels. Shridhar suggests that businesses operating via online channels should ensure that these factors are always prioritised when it comes to product, service development and marketing as they are most likely to resonate with consumers across all generations.

Personal data

According to the report, millennials are the most comfortable with online health information sources and are much more likely to be influenced by them than other generations. Though Generation Z is relatively trusting of online healthcare sources, they are slightly more sceptical than millennials about sharing personal information on the internet. Generation Z has never known a world without the internet and therefore may be warier of the permanence of personal information online and how their data is being used by corporations and governments.

Though Generation X and baby boomers are less likely to trust an online communities or social media influencers, they are comfortable in using a virtual doctor or medical professional and healthcare-related websites.

"This showcases that it is not just younger generations who are using the internet to support their healthy living decisions and receive information on health issues," ​says Shridhar. "Brands and companies need to be aware that online marketing and sales strategies should therefore also incorporate baby boomers and Generation X as they become more adept to using these kinds of platforms."

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