Numerous studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, have shown that the concept of a “healthy lifestyle” changes with each generation.The Greatest Generation and their Baby Boomer offspring tend to associate health with vitamins and regular medical care. Millennials, on the other hand, have made a name for themselves by considering health to be an ongoing lifestyle, encompassing organic foods and regular exercise. Or, at least, that’s the story reported on most media sites.
We noticed something different.
Not all Millennials were as health-conscious as most media stories imply. And, there is a significant difference between how male Millennials think of healthy living and the definition embraced by their female counterparts.
GENERAL CONCEPTS AND TRENDS
Let’s leave the Millennial generation aside for a moment and ask: What does having a “healthy lifestyle” means for the average American? If we look at the topics that are the most closely correlated with “healthy living” it seems like the average consumer associates health with physical exercise more than diet.
It’s also interesting to notice how healthy living is a topic that has become more and more important to the US Population over the past 10 years.
On this graph pulled from Google trends we see how the number of searches around the terms that have the highest correlation with healthy living (Fitness, Physical exercise, Running) has increased steadily over the years in a surprisingly cyclical pattern.
The interest towards healthy living reaches its lowest point every November and December in conjunction with the holidays and reaches its highest spikes each January. Americans lose their focus on healthy lifestyles over the holidays and get back on track with their New Year’s resolutions. This trend can be confirmed also on a smaller level.
When we zoom in on a 30 day time span, we notice an interesting weekly trend. Similarly with what happens during the holidays, people search healthy living related keywords mainly during the week, but lapse into bad habits on the weekends.
Despite seasonal trends, however, interest in healthy living has definitely increased for every generation in the past decade. Now let’s take a look at the Millennials cohort.
SEGMENTS AND COHORTS
If we break down the Beauty and Wellness Awareness by age we come to a surprising fact: It’s not true that Millennials are more interested Healthy living than previous or later generations (popularity 99.7 where 100 is the national average). In fact, only the older cohort of Millennials (25 to 35) is heavily invested in living healthy lifestyles.
Taking a look at the differences between Male and Female Millennials on this topic, we found that the correlations with the concept of a Healthy lifestyle differ by gender. Females are more interested in the food side of healthy living, while males are more into Fitness and physical exercise.
A geographical analysis gives us further insights on how interested Millennials in each state are in healthy living. Looking at the largest states, we see that most of the Healthy Living Millennials are concentrated in Florida (133), Nevada (129), California (104) and New York (119). But it is interesting to see unexpectedly high concentrations of these health-concerned people in the southern states including New Mexico (106) Texas (104), South Carolina(117) and Georgia (104).
RELATED INTERESTS AND AFFINITIES
Clearly, the 18-24 year-olds are a very different group than the 25-34 year-old Millennials, so we will focus on the different outlooks on health among men and women in the older cohort.
Looking at products, including Fitness, Vitamins & Supplements, Organic and Natural Foods, Fruits and Vegetables, we see substantial differences in popularity. Fitness products alone are 4 times more popular for the older Millennial cohort and Organic and Natural Foods are between 6 and 14 times more popular for the older segment. Media interests follow a similar pattern where the popularity of healthy lifestyle magazines, websites, blogs and apps is sharply skewed towards the 25-34 Millennials. Health-related magazines in particular are visited 11 times more by older Millennials than their younger counterparts.
DEEP DIVE I - Fitness for the 25-34 American Male
An MRI study reported that over 11 million Millennial males in the US practice fitness more than twice a week, a trend which we notice both in terms of reach 17.5% and popularity (130 is a peculiar characteristic of the older segment).
MRI's statistics about males hitting gym more than twice a week.
Let’s take a deeper look at what, within the fitness world, is trending among Millennial males between 25 and 34 years of age in the US.
Weightlifting and other physically intense activities are more popular, with Crossfit as the undisputed winner of this vertical chart with not only the highest popularity 163 but also the biggest reach within the segment. More mellow activities like spinning, zumba and Pilates are less attractive for this target.
DEEP DIVE II - Natural and organic food for the 24-35 American Female
We noticed earlier that women think of health primarily in terms of food. But looking at data from MRI we notice that this is not only a peculiar characteristic of women, but especially of women in the older Millennial segment. Of the 4 million Millennial females that regularly purchase and consume organic and natural food, nearly 3 million of them are aged between 25 and 34 with a popularity index of 121 compared with a 98% for the younger cohort.
MRI's statistics about females regularly purchasing and consuming organic and natural food.
The products in this segment that have the highest popularity are related to baby food Plum Organics (187), Ella’s Kitchen (191) or with organic and natural products like NatureBox (178) or Morning Star (178), not related to selective diets like vegan, gluten free and similar. As a result, we can conclude that the interest towards healthy food for this segment is more determined by a conscious choice rather than a medical imperative.
Millennials - people roughly between the ages of 18 to 34 - tend to be lumped together into one group that is assumed to share common characteristics. Yet there are significant differences in the life stage and psychology of 18-24 year-olds, and 25-34 year-olds. Very few young people, of any generation in recorded history, have been particularly concerned about health. But, as we age, have families and responsibilities, and gain life experience, adopting a healthy lifestyle becomes increasingly important.
What is odd, however, is how the idea of what constitutes healthy living diverges between men and women. Men focus almost exclusively on exercise; women on food. One would think healthy eating habits and exercise would go hand-in-hand, yet surprising insights like this can provide the fodder for compelling campaigns for health-related apps, products and services.
Interested in how each generation thinks of health? Check out this article on how one advertising firm found the key to the Baby Boomer market by analyzing their perspectives on healthy lifestyles.