By Briggy Anderson

Those Millennials are having a right hard time of it. Over-qualified and underpaid, they struggle to get on the housing ladder. The people who gave us cereal cafes and hipsters on penny-farthings are the butt of jokes – and now they’re told they are going to be the fattest generation ever.

Millennials are the most switched-on, linked-up, social media-savvy age group ever. But some health marketing messages just are not getting through to them, even while they follow Joe Wicks on Instagram and flit from food fad to food fad.

It’s a scary and sad state of affairs that seven out of 10 British people born between 1982 and the mid-90s will be overweight by 2040, according to research by Cancer Research UK. That raises the risk of 13 cancers, not to mention heart attack, stroke, diabetes …

Our young people are hurtling towards life-threatening and chronic conditions in middle age for totally preventable reasons. Avoiding that is relatively simple; eat a balanced diet and move more. But getting that health promotion message to stick when attention spans have been shrunk by Snapchat and Twitter is the challenge.

At Only Health, we work in communication in healthcare and help clients tackling some of these issues. We see opportunities emerging in health marketing, driven by successful issue-based social media strategies. We’ve seen the paradigm shift that both the This Girl Can campaign and #MeToo have affected in social attitudes. How many of you knew the word “nurdle” this time last year? And you probably thought plastic straws were not pernicious as recently as December. The health of our young people requires a similar about-turn – we need to change behaviours now, not in a few years’ time.

There’s no doubt that communication in healthcare has to start in pre-school – get ‘em while they’re young – and be followed up throughout our young people’s education, then be reinforced by health awareness campaigns. To some extent, we’ve missed that boat with the Millennials in that respect, but their openness to health marketing is astounding. Social media keeps them on top of all that’s current, be that juicing, detox, HIIT sessions … the list is endless.

However, are all those messages getting through? They may be among the 208,000 followers of thefooddoctor – Dr Hazel Wallace – on Instagram, but are they taking her advice or admiring the pretty pictures? Are BJ Gaddour’s 219,000 followers replicating his workouts, or ogling his muscles? Or are our young people’s ambitions being pushed out of their reach of the everyday person by the image-conscious social media bubble?

The growth in healthy and healthcare brands has been huge in recent years. Just look at the Nutribullet boom, for example. The juicer benefitted hugely from getting on the radar of online influencers. Healthy eating advocate Joe Wicks has whole recipes that rely on you having one – the Nutribullet went from an idea to a kitchen essential in less than five years. Life-enhancing changes can be made relatively quickly, with the right health marketing.

Now, I can understand why Millennials might have a “no tomorrow” mentality. It’s easy to feel that way if you are economically disenfranchised. Older generations may seem to Millennials to have all the wealth, all the property, the fat pension plans, and to have climbed the ladder then pulled it up behind them.

But there’s always a way of getting past that idea of damning the consequences. Look at the success of anti-smoking campaigns and how quickly the number of smokers has dropped. They have not danced around the subject. They have got to the heart –­ and lungs ­– of the matter: smoking kills. No scaremongering, just reality.

And brands need to be aware of their influence over health. I’m not just talking about fast-food chains and supplements manufacturers. Nike’s #nothingbeatsalondoner ad got people talking about how London-centric it is – but I challenge you to watch it and not feel the need to run, move or play sport.

Our work with Merck Consumer Healthcare on their We100 campaign was all about getting people to break their bad routines and get into healthy ones, based on research that says we are all likely to live to 100. We underlined the importance of staying active to keep life fun – and even encouraged Janet Street-Porter to take up aerial yoga in her 70s. There is always potential for changing habits – it’s our duty to encourage others to do that.

Our young people need a dose of reality. We have one body and if we are lucky it will last us a life time – and we want that to be a long time.

We know a lot about health. To speak to the health marketing experts, call us on 0800 612 9890.