Minnesota Has a Generations Gap When it Comes to Opinions on Health

New poll from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota shows generational differences among Minnesotans on health issues, such as how to fund health initiatives and how healthy they consider their generation to be. 


EAGAN, MINN. (Feb. 6, 2018) – When asked about health, Minnesotans vary greatly in their responses, in large part due to whether they are categorized as a Baby Boomer or member of Generation X, Y or Z. This is according to a recent poll conducted by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

One of the clearest points of difference was how respondents think their generation values health. Overall, just over half of all Minnesotans (51 percent) think they care more about their health than their parents or grandparents. However, Baby Boomers express this sentiment most strongly (66 percent), while it decreases with Gen X (60 percent), Gen Y (46 percent) and Gen Z (28 percent).

“Younger generations learning about health and wellness at an earlier age could be narrowing the health gap between generations,” said Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross. “At the other end of the spectrum, older generations that are placing more value on longevity and vitality could be having an impact on cultural norms for certain issues, such as smoking.”

One organization taking a cross-generational approach to address health issues in Duluth is Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative (LPCFC). The organization works to create healthy, tobacco-free spaces for children and families in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is an area of concentrated poverty and a federally recognized food desert. Its programs include Monday Night Family Gatherings, which aim to bring together parents and children for weekly meals and activities.

BCBS Generations Poll Infographic

Generations Differ on Funding Health in their State
Younger Minnesotans polled were more likely than Baby Boomers to support* using tax dollars for health initiatives and prevention programs. 

Gen Y showed the highest support (46 percent) for publicly funding prevention programs that address diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Support was lower for Gen Z (42 percent), Gen X (38 percent) and Baby Boomers (35 percent).

All age groups were more supportive of using tax money for school health and wellness initiatives. More than half of Gen Z respondents (52 percent) supported publicly funding such initiatives, followed by Gen Y (51 percent), Gen X (46 percent) and Baby Boomers (44 percent). 

“What we heard was broad, cross-generational support for public health initiatives — and that bodes well for healthy communities of the future,” said Waldock. 

Different Activities Keep Generations Moving
Two-thirds of Minnesotans keep active with leisurely physical activities, but the specific activities vary by generation. 

For example, Baby Boomers were twice as likely as Gen Z to walk (90 percent versus 45 percent). Baby Boomers were also more likely to garden (52 percent) than Gen Y (23 percent). Meanwhile, Gen Y was more likely to run (49 percent) than other generations. And Gen Z was significantly more likely to take part in recreational sports (57 percent).

Communities are recognizing the demand for these activities and providing programs designed to appeal to broad age ranges. Slow Roll St. Paul, for example, welcomes people of all ages and skill levels to join biweekly community bike rides through St. Paul neighborhoods in the summer. 

Live Healthy Red Wing is another initiative aimed at fostering healthier communities. One project improved crosswalk safety and ease, encouraging Red Wing residents of senior housing to venture out for more walks.

About the Poll
The public-opinion online poll was commissioned by The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and conducted by ORC International’s CARAVAN® Geographic Omnibus in November 2017. It consisted of 1,235 Minnesotans ages 13-71. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points for the full sample. Results were compared across four generations: Baby Boomers (age 53-71), Gen X (ages 37-52), Gen Y (ages 18-36) and Gen Z (ages 13-17).

About the Center for Prevention
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross’ long-term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross’ historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, The Center collaborates with organizations statewide to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state. Visit www.centerforpreventionmn.com for more information.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.

* “Support” is defined as those who responded to questions on these topics with an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale, where 10 is “completely agree” and 1 is “completely disagree.”

Media Contacts
  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.