Nine Out of Ten Millennials Avoid Going To The Doctor. Here's Why You Shouldn't.

"My advice for young people, in regards to their health, is to get involved in maintaining it."

When was the last time you went to the doctor? If you can't remember — and you also happen to be a millennial — you're not alone. According to a 2015 survey of more than 2,000 Americans from Zocdoc, a digital health platform, 80 percent of people said they delayed or swore off preventive care. Millennials, in particular, avoid the doctor the most, with nine in 10 (93 percent) not scheduling medical appointments. Over half of millennials (51 percent) also reported visiting a doctor less than once a year. 

"Generally, I'll avoid going [to the doctor] because it's annoying to schedule appointments around work," Christine Hayes, a 24-year-old online content editor at C-4 Analytics, told A Plus. "… It's even more of a hassle if you have to find a new doctor, like a specialist or something." With her busy work schedule, she doesn't want to use a sick day to see a doctor if nothing's wrong, and many medical offices aren't open past 5 p.m..



Christine Hayes 
Christine Hayes 

And Hayes definitely isn't the only millennial to put her everyday life and work obligations before her health. Of those surveyed, 61 percent said managing their health and wellness was "a struggle." With so many other commitments on their mind, 37 percent of people said they couldn't even remember how long it had been since their last doctor's visit. Work was the number one reason people reported having to cancel or reschedule a checkup, with 48 percent of respondents citing this reason.

While Hayes is young and healthy, putting her well-being on the back burner hasn't been without negative consequences.  "There have been times where I waited so long that the problem got worse," she explained. "For example, I kept just telling myself I had a regular cold because I didn't want to have to see a doctor, but it turned out to be tonsillitis. And by the time I went to the doctor, I needed to go to the ER for it." 

Across all ages, women are more likely to put off preventive care than men (82 percent vs. 78 percent). Roughly two-thirds of women (66 percent) would rather "wait it out" than make a doctor's appointment as soon as they notice symptoms. 

Melody Jones
Melody Jones

When it comes to noticing symptoms — and more importantly, doing something about them — sooner is always better, as Melody Jones, a health and wellness blogger, knows all too well. When she was 16, Jones noticed something was off when she began to develop a "butterfly rash" across the bridge of her nose and cheeks. 

"I had always had clear skin up until I was a teenager, so at first it seemed like possible acne," Jones told A Plus via email. "But after a while it began to hurt, so I made an appointment to see my doctor." After multiple appointments with various doctors, she was eventually diagnosed with lupus, a chronic illness.  

"With lupus, there is a range of symptoms you may have, and the way they diagnosed you back then is by evaluating how many of those symptoms were present in the patient, and then running tests based on that," Jones explained. Even after seeing three or four doctors, no one knew how to diagnose her until one doctor told Jones, "the only way to know is for them to perform a biopsy," which meant cutting into her nose. 

That same day, the doctor performed the biopsy and diagnosed Jones with lupus. "Vanity may have been the motivation, but having a diagnosis made it clear to me what was going on," she added. "...  Some lupus symptoms are invisible, like fatigue, loss of appetite, or a compromised immune system. Even though someone looks fine, they may still have something going on that you would not be able to identify by looking at them." 

That's why, as a health advocate, she believes it's so important for young people "to get involved in maintaining it." Though she thinks "young people are a lot more in-tune with themselves than we give them credit for," it's nonetheless necessary "to share this type of information so they understand the importance of catching a medical emergency in the early stages.

Dr. Monali Y Desai, M.D.
Dr. Monali Y Desai, M.D.

Not only can going to the doctor ensure you catch a medical emergency before it fully develops, but doctors also have a knack for spotting a trend in patient behavior from a mile away, too. Dr. Monali Y Desai, a cardiologist, has seen "that all people of all ages are avoiding making preventative appointments." Though it's a relevant and ongoing issue she and her colleagues have discussed, "there doesn't seem to be an easy solution," she told A Plus. 

Besides avoiding the doctor because they don't have the time, some may be concerned they don't have the money. "I think it's related to millennials being worried about whether or not doctor's visits and medications or treatments will be covered by their insurance and higher deductibles that millennials don't want to pay if they're not actually sick," Desai explained. "So if millennials are feeling well, they put off going to the doctor until they're sick." 

To ease millennials' concerns, she recommends talking to a patient financial services office, available at many large medical systems, before going to the doctor. Desai also noted that certain systems can connect people with the patient financial services staff online, though you do pay an initial membership fee to join. Even so, Desai said, "I think it's worth it for most millennials because then you won't be stressed out, worrying about getting a large bill after your visit, and you can find out in advance what's covered and what's not." Without this added financial stress, patients can focus on what's actually important: their health. 

Rameck Hunt 
Rameck Hunt 

"What I recommend is that young people go get a baseline as an adult," Dr. Rameck Hunt, an internist, told A Plus. "So once they leave their pediatrician, they should go and find an adult doctor — an internist or a family practice doctor — and get a head-to-toe physical." 

After establishing that healthy baseline, patients under age 45 can come back for a routine check-up every two years. This is important because it gives the doctor a "snapshot" of their patient feeling their best, so it's easier to tell what's going on in their body when they're not. "You don't expect anything to change within a 12-month period with someone that's young and healthy. Obviously, they'll come back if something happens to them ... [but] I wouldn't make the first point of contact with a healthcare provider when you're sick," Dr. Hunt suggested. "It's always a good idea to go and get established with a primary care provider."

That's especially true when it comes to chronic illnesses like lupus. Though many of its most common symptoms can seem like everyday nuisances, if gone unchecked, they can snowball into larger, lifelong issues. To prevent this, Desai advised millennials to "see a primary care doctor at least once if you think you might be predisposed to or have a chronic illness." 

Desai also recommended seeking out basic information from  MedlinePlus, a site run by the National Institutes of Health, which you can use to ask your doctor specific questions at your next appointment. This information can provide patients with a foundation of understanding, but it should not be used to self-diagnose, according to Desai. "You should be careful about interpreting information without a healthcare professional because it's easy to misinterpret information when you're worried about being sick," she concluded. 

While you can't always control your physical health, you can control how you take care of it. "It's something that you can only know for yourself ... if you feel something, you should follow that inner guidance because knowing is always better than passing out in front of your high school Anatomy class like I did," Jones added, jokingly. The key is listening to your body, equipping yourself with the tools necessary to know when to get help, and, of course, actually seeking it. 

Cover image via Shutterstock