Conceptualizing Health for Gen Z

Trends / Wellness
Carolina Sampaio Lechner
Nov 25, 2023
Although all generations are taking proactive care of their health, Gen Z is doing so above average. Our newest VisualGPS consumer data shows that 67% of young adults in Europe try to take steps to improve their health and well‑being each day.1 This cohort, born between the mid‑1990s and the early 2010s, also has a paradoxical relationship with technology and social media, including when it comes to their health. 6 in 10 of Gen Z respondents say social media worsens their mental health — more than any other generation. Additionally, half of the respondents say that technology increases feelings of loneliness. However, the other half says technology increases the feelings of connection, and 44% confirm social media helps support their mental well‑being.

Why is this important? Gen Z adults are significantly more likely than any other generation to say they are struggling with their mental health, with over 6 in 10 young adults agreeing compared to 38% of people overall. Surprisingly, our consumer survey shows that Gen Z is the age group least likely to feel comfortable discussing their mental health with just over half stating feeling discomfort in doing so.

Read on to discover how healthcare companies can engage with this generation by visually responding to their unique needs.
Young health is digital
Hashtags like #healthtok2 or #mentalhealthmatters3, accounts that try to break mental health stigma4, and apps like Chill Pill5, show that young people are turning to digital communities for health advice and support. In fact, VisualGPS consumer research shows that 68% of Gen Z — compared to 58% of overall consumers — say social media is a place where they go to educate themselves or learn,6 including getting medical information.7

However, turning to social media for health advice bares the risk of misinformation, making it of the utmost importance that healthcare brands tap into this area. This is with visuals that inspire trust while speaking the language of its online users, who prefer short‑form videos, followed by images, for social media content that inspires, educates, or gives new perspectives. Additionally, think of showing how technology is empowering young adults to take care of their health in a self‑determined way, and the emotional benefits this brings.
Young health is joyful
Health‑related topics have been approached in pop culture not only through social media but also through coming‑of‑age series. Think of Sex Education, which discusses, well, sexual education and mental health in a bold way, and is inspired by the vibrant '80s aesthetic of Gen Z parents’ generation. Or the scrapbook‑like animations used in Heartstopper, a series which sensitively speaks about the mental and physical toll discrimination has on young LGBTQ+ people. What these examples show is that with their storytelling and unique aesthetics, they touch on serious topics in a playful and empathetic way.

Visual patterns show Getty Images' healthcare customers often using visuals with bright, but cold lighting and colours like white and blue representing clinical cleanliness. However, we can also observe warmer tones and lighting, especially around lifestyle topics. Our visual testing shows that conceptual visuals related to, for example, mental health raise feelings of curiosity and creativity. We have also observed a slight rise in illustrations that show healthcare topics such as mental or women’s health.

Healthcare brands could elevate their visual language by implementing bold, playful aesthetics to their visuals. Think of color‑blocking, collage‑style visuals, interesting textures, or unexpected mediums used to conceptualize conditions, ailments, and ideas that are often difficult to visualize.

1 Visual GPS Consumer Survey, Europe
2 2 billion views on TikTok, 17. November 2023 (TikTok Creative Center)
3 55 billion views on TikTok, 17. November 2023 (TikTok Creative Center)
4 E.g., Elyse Myers (via Oliver Wyman Forum)
5 Chill Pill
6 VGPS Consumer Survey
7 A‑Gen‑Z Report: What Business Needs To Know About The Generation Changing Everything (Oliver Wyman Forum)
Senior Selfies