Millennials and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What does it mean for the healthcare Industry?

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Millennials, Youth & Family


Alex Palermo

Senior Vice President, B2B Research

While away on business, I found myself in my hotel room multi-tasking, working on both my laptop and smartphone, and I also had the TV on.  Suddenly, I was lured away from my myriad emails by the sound of crickets and birds chirping.  It was as if the world had momentarily stopped being so chaotic and gone back to the days of Bob Ross and his Happy Little Trees.  I was frozen.  Mesmerized by the sound of nature’s silence, I quickly downloaded what was purported to be the world’s most relaxing smartphone app, Calm.  The Calm app had me at free trial, then lost me at $59.99 subscription fee.  But it was too late.  I’d become hooked on what I didn’t know then was something called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).

CAM isn’t new.  It’s been around for ages.  But the ways in which we are interacting with it are changing.  CAM is becoming more accessible through smartphones and tablets; so, in a sense, we can always have a pocket therapist or wellness guru on call.  But why are these meditation apps and new age, more holistic wellness techniques like essential oils and probiotics gaining popularity?

The answer?  In part, it’s Millennials.  Millennials are finally aging into needing healthcare, and they’re not convinced that western medicine always has their best interests in mind.  Case in point, a recent study by Sermo, a social network for doctors, found that Millennials believe that most pharma companies are “out of touch.” Millennials most likely feel this way because these pharma companies “haven’t done a good job of marketing to Millennials where Millennials are, like on social media.”  Millennials are also more likely to shop around for care or seek alternatives like telemedicine over traditional doctor visits.

Here’s another interesting fact that could be playing a role in the growing popularity of CAMs: children of Millennials will be the first generation to have a white minority, and this multicultural outlook is an additional reason to believe the writing is on the wall for pharmaceuticals. In Hispanic cultures, for example, it is very common to believe that homeopathic remedies are more effective and less dangerous than prescription medication.  Look at the marijuana industry—Marijuana is now legal in the District of Columbia and 10 states for recreational use.  Pharmaceutical companies better catch up if they want to stay relevant.

When it comes to CAM, there is a sub group of Millennials, who after the whole Tylenol scare of the 1980’s, started to think that big corporations were careless, mixing chemical concoctions into remedies in pill form, utilizing advertising and marketing as promotional tools to give them meaning and reason to push them into their neighborhoods …their homes.  The mind is a malleable object, it can be bent and shaped, taught to believe there is one fix—one solution. Millennials are open-minded, inquisitive, and curious.  They also feel overlooked; and because of this, they’ve learned to find solutions to problems in areas most people don’t look.

So, what does all this mean?  For marketers in the healthcare space, anticipate and consider a growing trend toward CAMs. Focus on pivoting traditional marketing tactics toward new channels (social media) and use less didactic tones.  Diversifying the product portfolio and the ways in which the messages are reaching consumers will be critical for future success in the healthcare space.

As for me, I’ve deleted the Calm app, but the essential oils and probiotics are here to stay.



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