Workforce Health + Benefits

How Health Risk Assessment Data Will Help You Influence the Health of Generation Z

A guest post from our partner, Wellsource

Change is on the horizon for the wellness industry. More Baby Boomers will retire, giving Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) more prominence.

The youngest generation—born 1997 and onward—will change the face of wellness, the workplace and the world. Generation Z has surpassed Millennials in population size, and they are already entering the workforce. They are digital natives and expect that the workplace will meet their wellness needs using technology.

But there’s more to this generation than smartphones and TikTok. They are driven to change the world. With health risk assessment (HRA) data, you can help them stay healthy so they can. Here are some significant ways HRAs can help wellness professionals meet the needs of Gen Z in 2020 and beyond.

1) They have higher rates of depression and stress. HRAs identify who’s at risk.

Overall, Americans are more depressed today than they were five years ago. According to a 2018 Blue Cross Blue Shield study, the incidence of major depression increased 33% since 2013. And the group most likely to be diagnosed with major depression? You guessed it. Gen Z.

Wellsource reviewed 2018 data from its health risk assessment product* and found some staggering data about the GenZ workforce. This generation is nearly two times more likely to feel depressed than older generations. Fewer than half (45%) of Gen Zs rate their mental health as very good or better, and nine in ten report having at least one stress-related symptom. So what’s stressing out Gen Z?


True, Gen Zs aren’t the only generation buried by personal debt—Generation X has the highest student loan debt load, for example—but four in five Gen Zs are stressed out about money. Our HRA data* shows that 68% of Gen Zs have some level of financial stress. Saddled with school loans and sky-high housing costs, many Gen Zs report stress over not getting enough to eat. However, they are being proactive about their future stability. More than half of Gen Zs already have a savings account.

Work Stress

Close to eight in 10 Gen Zs say work is a significant source of stress. In our HRA data,* 82% said they had some level of work stress. Gen Zs are entering the workforce already stressed, but once there, 77% cite work as a cause of their stress.

HRAs can help wellness professionals spot psychological distress. They can also identify whether an individual has habits in place that contribute to coping, such as physical activity and social connection. In addition, apps can help people successfully engage in behavior therapy and connect with mental health coaches and therapists.

2) They have a strong interest in authentic social connection. HRAs let you see who’s connected.

Gen Zs are the most Internet-connected of all generations, but having a lot of online connections doesn’t necessarily make them happier. Heavy internet use increases the chances that a Gen Z has limited face-to-face communication with family, fewer friends, and greater feelings of loneliness and depression. Gen Z (and Millennials, too) are longing for something more—genuine connection—IRL (in real life) and online.

Use HRA data to confirm social support, such as whether an individual has frequent contact with friends and loved ones. And then, be more open to workplace initiatives that support connection. The majority (71%) of Gen Z workers want coworkers to be a second family, and nearly 9 in 10 want to work in a fun, social workplace.

Another approach to creating social opportunities for coworkers that will resonate with younger generations is to adopt a meaningful cause. Volunteer at a charity. Embark on a project to improve the environment. Adopt eco-friendly practices throughout your organization. Millennials want high-paying jobs, yet young workers are so driven to make a positive impact that three in five would take a cut in pay to work for a socially responsible company.

3) They have rapidly declining health. HRAs show you which habits put them at risk for chronic disease.

Gen Zs value wellness, but don’t equate that with traditional health care services. They have a difficult time finding a primary care physician that meets their needs and tend to prefer telemedicine and walk-in clinics.

According to our HRA data,* Gen Zs are less likely to use sunscreen, get regular physical or dental exams, or eat enough fruits and vegetables compared to older generations. They also sit for more hours a day than prior generations. Additionally, because they have high stress rates, they are at increased risk for health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased sick days. And diseases like these are already stressing out your workforce. About three in five privately insured Gen Zs worry they or someone they love will not be able to access or afford health care when they need it in the future. Harness this worry to promote healthy behaviors.

Health Habits of Gen Z*

  • 10.5 Average sitting hours
  • 13.3% Exposed to secondhand smoke
  • 18.2% Rarely use sunscreen
  • 31.0% Not current on dental exams
  • 34.3% Depressed
  • 34.7% Report feelings cause distress or impaired functioning
  • 37.6% Don’t eat enough fruit
  • 50.6% Skip breakfast
  • 64.0% Don’t eat enough veggies

What interventions does a workforce need to improve their future health? Because Gen Zs are dissatisfied with a traditional healthcare approach and far more open to alternative health and wellness, start with an HRA that identifies health risks based on lifestyle behaviors and adherence to preventive exams. Then, create a workplace environment that makes it easier to be healthy. Bonus points if your efforts also support local businesses and contribute to sustainability. Stock the breakroom with fresh fruits from a farmer’s market. Celebrate Meatless Mondays in the cafeteria. Provide work breaks for meditation. Bring preventive services to the office.

4) They expect personalization. HRAs can help personalize their wellness offerings.

Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report found that only 31% of employees are actively engaged at work. While this is higher than any other country, it’s far from ideal.

Businesses benefit from engaged employees with increased productivity, lower absenteeism rates, higher retention, improved safety, and better quality.

Improving engagements starts with “understanding what makes employees ‘tick’.” Gallup’s formulary includes receiving recognition for good work, feeling cared for as a person by management and coworkers, having opportunity for personal and professional growth, and enjoying work-life balance.

All generations—from Gen Z to Baby Boomers—believe work-life balance is a key component to a happy workplace. Gallup’s report found that engagement is highest when employees telecommute at least 60% but less than 80% of the time and work onsite with all their coworkers on the other days. Remote workers are most likely to feel their employer meets their social and personal growth needs. While Gen Z cares about autonomy, flexibility, and work-life balance, this youngest generation is more concerned with stability, social consciousness, and professional growth.

HRAs help wellness coordinators personalize health interventions when they identify what a person needs and what they are willing to change. Health and wellness professionals must deliver interventions in ways that resonate with each employee. Digital natives expect digital solutions and constant/instant feedback. They also want to enjoy experiences that make them feel special or catered to—like the secret menu at Starbucks—and that accommodate their preferences and perspectives. As the Gallup report points out, even self-reliant workers benefit from managerial support that is customized to their individual goals and expectations.

5) They expect a predictive digital experience that comes from data being shared between companies. HRA data will play an essential role in program design.

Increasingly, wellness companies are turning to technology to digest huge amounts of data—including lifestyle and consumer data—to get the big picture of employee populations. HRAs contribute valuable data that helps predict individual and population health.

To enhance health outcomes, HRA data should be considered with other data sources, such as claims data, diagnostic tests, chart notes, social determinants of health, behavioral health information, genomic, and consumer data. This requires removing data siloes in wellness and population health similarly to how they are being removed in health care.

The good news for data analysts is that nearly 7 in 10 Gen Zs are willing to trade personal data for a predictive digital experience. But to feel comfortable giving out personal information, they need to know that it’s protected, so make sure your HRA has clear privacy policies and tells individuals how the data will be used. In exchange for sharing their data, Gen Zs expect a company will anticipate what they need—and if that doesn’t happen, they’ll leave.

Now is the time to intervene, before serious health problems take hold. Gen Zs want employers to help them develop healthy lifestyles, work-life balance, financial health (e.g., savings plans, decent salaries, and loan repayment assistance), and collaboration and social connection—and to use technology to do so. They are also the generation most likely to seek out therapy or medication for stress or mental health issues. HRA data helps inform wellness programs so employers and wellness companies can meet or exceed expectations of the workforce and improve employee health.

Want to learn more about how health risk assessment can help your population? Read the Ultimate Guide to HRAs white paper.

*Based on de-identified data from the WellSuite® IV Health Risk Assessment for the Workforce completed between January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018.

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