Millennials (people between ages 18 and 29) are much less likely than the general public to rely on pharmacists as a source of health information, according to a national survey conducted by North Carolina public affairs firm Capstrat and Public Policy Polling. Only 25 percent of Millennials judged pharmacists to be a “somewhat or extremely reliable” source of health information, compared to 70 percent of respondents overall.


Compared to other age groups, Millennials also expressed less trust in traditional medical sources including doctors, nurses, advocacy groups, and information gleaned from Google searches. Thirty-seven percent said doctors were unreliable sources of information (compared to 15 percent of all respondents) and 50 percent considered nurses unreliable (compared to 16 percent of all respondents). Tops in reliability for Millennials were advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society (53 percent) and family and friends (48 percent). Millennials judged Google reliable as well, but not to the extent of other groups (49 percent versus 59 percent overall).


Yet in practice, Millennials don’t necessarily rely on the sources they say they find most reliable. When asked for the “single most influential” source of information the last time they had a health issue (versus who they implicitly trust), Millennials reported turning to doctors more than any other source. A similar dichotomy was observed in how they looked at online health forums.


Millennials didn’t rate online health forums as more reliable than other groups, yet were much more likely to have used forums the last time they needed information (31 percent versus 4 percent for all respondents).


“These preliminary findings suggest that skeptical Millennials may be more open to input from traditional medical authorities than we expect—particularly if they connect through the online media channels that are so prominent in their day-to-day lives,” says Capstrat President Karen Albritton. “Given that at least three-quarters of the individuals in this age group are active in social media, it’s not surprising that they would prefer this channel.


“Millennials’ low rating of pharmacists likely reflects a changed relationship with the profession compared to their parents. The pharmacy business has changed rapidly from sole proprietorships that were the center of life in small towns to chain stores and mail order options that are less likely to promote deep personal relationships. Millennials’ outlook could be an outgrowth of this changing dynamic.”