In 2015, millennials surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generation in the United States. For ophthalmologists, this means that the rest of our practice lifetimes will be filled with more millennials than members of any other age group. So, what do we know about these individuals and their impact on our practices and, on a larger scale, our society?
By the numbers. The millennial population numbers are being amplified by unprecedented levels of immigration. In turn, this age group will peak at a level that is higher even than the baby boomers, reaching 81.1 million in 2036.1 Thereafter, the oldest millennial will be at least 56 years of age, and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration. By 2050, there will be a projected 79.2 million millennials. This will be transformative.
Access over ownership. Millennials truly are different, as every generation differs from the one before. These individuals are much more interested in access than in ownership. There is a notion that perhaps car ownership—formerly a rite of passage for every baby boomer—may become an anomaly in the future, as millennials are delaying or skipping buying cars. They are also postponing the ownership of luxury goods and homes, as many of them live with their parents.
The shared economy. For these reasons, millennials are driving the shared economy. How will this affect how they spend money on themselves? Will they spend money on LASIK? It is clear that millennials are very interested in their health. They are much healthier than the prior generation. Wellness is a daily active pursuit. Millennials exercise more, they eat more healthily, they use apps to track their health, and they are less tolerant of vices such as smoking. Quite remarkably, the number of high school seniors who disapprove of someone smoking a pack or more a day has skyrocketed, representing a major shift in mindset over a relatively short period of time.
Population dynamics shape consumer markets, politics, work cultures, and more. It is safe to say that millennials will reshape every segment of society. Although it is hard to determine what will come after the millennials (robots, I presume), this generation is undoubtedly going to affect all of our worlds on a micro and macro scale.
1. Fry R. This year, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers. Pew Research Center. January 16, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/. Accessed April 15, 2016.