Young People Concerned About the Future of UK Health Services

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Jan 22, 2019

Young People Concerned About the Future of UK Health Services

New research by health marketing agency Pegasus, reveals 69% of Generation Z is concerned about the future of the NHS

Generation Z: The Future of Health and Wellbeing is a comprehensive study of the health attitudes and behaviours of Generation Z compared to those of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. Carried out by Pegasus, the study looked into the attitudes of young people aged 16 to 23 (Gen Z) and people aged 54 to 72 (Baby Boomers) to learn their views on health-related topics such as the NHS and mental health.

The research shows an overwhelming concern by the youngest voting generation that health services will be unable to meet their needs or expectations in the future.

Leading the research was Corrina Safeio, Director of Strategy and Insights at Pegasus. She said, “For us, there’s one audience raising a lot of questions at the moment - Generation Z. Born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s (aged between 16 and 23), these young people have never known a time before mobile phones and the internet.

“As our youngest generation of voters, they live in politically polarised times, full of uncertainty and ‘fake news’. And as the country’s most tech-literate adults, they access their information through diverse, immediate channels and platforms.

“But what do they think about their health? And what impact does their social and political environment have on their health and wellbeing?”

With 2019 expected to be a year of economic and political uncertainty, Brexit is the biggest worry for Gen Z, with 59% believing an exit from Europe will have a negative impact on the NHS, compared to just 28% of Baby Boomers.

But regardless of the outcome, both groups voice concern about the longevity of the NHS, with 69% of Gen Z and 72% of Baby Boomers worrying about its future.

Trust in healthcare professionals

When it comes to the level of trust between patient and healthcare professionals, 72% of Gen Zs say they have “a lot of respect” for doctors and specialists, with more than 30% saying they would visit a GP when unwell. But not all visits to the consulting room are positive. 41% say they feel dismissed by doctors during a consultation, as though they are imagining or exaggerating their symptoms.

One respondent said, “If you go and say what’s wrong with you, they’ll brush it off like it’s nothing.”

Findings also saw that 60% of Gen Z admitted to consulting ‘Dr Google’ to check symptoms before making an appointment with their GP.

Mental health support

The study found that Generation Z are experiencing obstacles when seeking mental health support, with 46% indicating they would struggle to tell their GP if they were struggling.

Dr Anna Baker, a health psychologist who assisted with the report, said, “Generation Z sees the importance of caring for their health and engaging with HPCs, but appear to have more negative experiences. This could be influenced by direct experience but also potentially by a heavy reliance on using online resources to access information.

“The impact here is that satisfaction is lowered by high levels of knowledge and expectation, regardless of accuracy. Reaching out to this well-informed group must acknowledge this, but also address a need in providing a more personalised service and ensure they feel supported. The reliance on online information suggests a useful role in reaching out to this group.”

The impact of social media

The report also asked the two generations their thoughts on the impact of social media in the desire to stay healthy, and if they are able to try, or how they achieve, a good work-life balance.

Collectively, 88% of Gen Z are regularly exposed to fitness or beauty models and influences on social media. And this younger generation seems to be much more negatively affected by this content than older generations. Key findings include:

  • 40% of Gen Z feel envious when looking at these images (compared to 9% of Baby Boomers)
  • 48% of Gen Z feel sad that they don’t look like the people they follow (compared to 15% of BB)
  • 47% of Gen Z feel pressure to lose weight or get fitter (compared to 12% of BB)

Dr Baker said, “These unrealistic images lead to unnecessary negative feelings about themselves, which may have unhelpful effects on their motivation to stay healthy.”

“For me, social media has become a source of inspiration, connection and hope - but as someone with a history of eating disorders and anxiety, I have to tread carefully.” Read Kat's article, 'How to take care of yourself online'.

Work-life balance

When questioned on work-life balance, over half of Gen Z respondents reported feeling currently happy with their work/education life balance. However, 55% also admitted to having had time off due to stress or feeling overwhelmed with their workload (compared to only 17% of BB).

Safeio said, “Anyone who wants to inspire others to make healthy decisions needs to have a deep understanding of the people they are trying to reach.

“Generation Z is one audience raising a lot of questions for health organisations. Which is why understanding them and their health behaviours better is incredibly important right now.

“These young people have never known a time before mobile phones and the internet. And as the country’s most tech-literate adults, they access their information through diverse, immediate channels and platforms. This report goes some way into unlocking important insights into how we can help Gen Z access health services - and live more healthily - in a way that best suits them.”

Read Generation Z: The Future of Health and Wellbeing.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, you may be wondering whether you should talk to your GP about what you’re experiencing, and how they could help. We’ve put together some guidance to help you navigate your doctor’s appointment.

If you are worried about your mental health, you may benefit from speaking to a professional. Enter your location in the box below to find a counsellor near you.

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