Great Book – Microtrends

microtrends.jpgAt PBMI, one of the best speakers was Kinney Zalesne who with Mark Penn wrote the book Microtrends. I just finished reading the book – all 370+ pages. I found it to be one of the most engaging non-fiction books I have read in a long time…which says a lot. I have boxes and book shelves of books that I have bought, skimmed, and stopped reading. I get something out of them, but it is often not enough to continue reading the whole book.

I found Microtrends to be interesting both personally and professionally. Let me throw out a few of the things that I highlighted and noted during my reading along with some of the potential implications within healthcare.

Some of the topics they cover:

  • Love, Sex, and Relationships (Sex-Ratio Singles, Cougars, Office Romancers, Commuter Couples, Internet Marrieds)
  • Work Life (Working Retired, Extreme Commuters, Stay-at-Home Workers, Wordy Women, Ardent Amazons)
  • Race and Religion (Stained Glass Ceiling Breakers, Pro-Semites, Interracial Families, Protestant Hispanics, Moderate Muslims)
  • Health and Wellness (Sun-Haters, 30-winkers, Southpaws Unbound, DIY Doctors, Hard-of-Hearers)
  • Family Life (Old New Dads, Pet Parents, Pampering Parents, Late-Breaking Gays, Dutiful Sons)
  • Politics (Impressionable Elites, Swing Is Still King, Militant Illegals, Christian Zionists, Newly Released Ex-Cons)
  • Teens (The Mildly Disordered, Young Knitters, Black Teen Idols, High School Moguls, Aspiring Snipers)
  • Food, Drink, and Diet (Vegan Children, A Disporportionate Burden, Starving for Life, Caffeine Crazies)
  • Lifestyle (Long Attention Spanners, Neglected Dads, Native Language Speakers, Unisexuals)
  • Money and Class (Second-Home Buyers, Modern Mary Poppinses, Shy Millionaires, Burgeois and Bankrupt, Non-Profiteers)
  • Looks and Fashion (Uptown Tatooed, Snowed-Under Slobs, Surgery Lovers, Powerful Petites)
  • Technology (Social Geeks, New Luddites, Tech Fatales, Car-Buying Soccer Moms)
  • Leisure and Entertainment (Archery Moms?, XXX Men, Video Game Grown-ups, Neo-Classicals)
  • Education (Smart Child Left Behind, America’s Home Schooled, College Dropouts, Numbers Junkies)
  • International (Mini-Churched, International Home Buyers, LAT Couples, Mammonis, Eurostars, Vietnamese Entrepreneurs, French Teetotalers, Chinese Picassos, Russian Swings)

Second, the countertrends are very interesting. More caffeine and more water. Shorter attention with a rise in knitting. More technology and more people abandoning technology. Obesity and intentional starvation. More sun tan parlors and more people afraid of the sun.

“Microtrends is based on the idea that the most powerful forces in our society are the emerging, counterintuitive trends that are shaping tomorrow right before us.”

Sample facts:

  • Less than 25% of the households in the US are married-with-kids. 26% are households of one person.
  • At birth, there are 90,000 more boys born per year than girls. By age 18, it has switched to a 51% female mix. Exclude out the gay men and lesbian women, you get a straight sex ratio of 53 women to 47 men.
  • 3M American adults in a long-term relationship or married met online which is the same number that met in church.
  • There are already 5M people 65 or older in the workforce and that number is expected to grow.
    • According to an economist at the Urban Institute, “if everyone worked just one year beyond expected retirement, we’d completely offset the anticipated shortfall between benefits and taxes in the old age insurance portion of Social Security.”
  • 3% of workers work from home. The average commute is 25 minutes. 3.4M people commute at least 90 minutes each way to work.
    • Researchers at Georgia Tech found that “every thirty minutes spent driving increases your risk of becoming obese by 3 percent.”
  • In a Gallup poll in 2006, when people were asked about how they feel about religious groups, Jews rated the highest with a net positive of 54%. There are more Christian evangelicals in the US that support Israel than Jews.
  • 5.4% of marriages are interracial which led to the US Census allowing people to select multiple races in 2000.
  • There are 10M Protestant Hispanics in the US which is more than the number of Muslims or Presbyterians.
  • 81% of American Muslims support gun control (compared to barely half of Americans).
  • There are 3x as many tanning parlors in the US as Starbucks.
  • 1 in 10 children aged 12-18 uses a sunlamp and only 1 in 3 uses sunscreen. And, at least 25% of skin damage occurs before a person is 18 years old.
  • 16% of American adults sleep less than 6 hours a night. But, this causes injuries, accidents, and health problems. Lack of sleep triggers hormones that boost hunger and appetite.
    • She calculated out what I have argued for years that this creates an extra 8.2 years of life for someone who lives to 82.
  • DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Doctors is a whole new group of people that self-diagnose, self-medicate, and challenge their physicians.
  • OTC sales are now $15B per year.
  • In 1997, Americans spend more out-of-pocket on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) that on hospitalizations.
  • 3 in 5 Americans worry about medication errors at the hospital.
  • Women make healthcare decisions in over 70% of households.
  • 81% of people would like to use e-mail with their doctors but only 8% say they do today. [If they were controlled and reimbursed for this without increasing risk, I think they would welcome it.]
  • 1 in 10 Americans have some hearing loss. Nine seconds into a rock concert, you experience hearing loss. [I have been to several concerts even in the front row so that seems like a problem.]
  • 1 in 18 births were to men over 50. [Changes your underwriting profile.]
  • 63% of American households have pets. And, the top 1% of pets live better than 99% of the world’s population.
    • Studies have show health benefits of pet ownership including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, preventing heart disease, and warding off depression.
  • Only 15% of parents would take away their kids privileges if they found out their 15 year old was using illegal drugs. [And most of us think we are strict?]
  • Only 4% of people over age 65 live in nursing homes or assisted living arrangements.
  • 40% of the people providing unpaid care for infirm adults are men. [Counter this to the assumption that women make most healthcare decisions.]
  • 650,000 ex-cons enter society every year. [Have we increased their health literacy while in prison.]
  • Childhood autism has increased 9-fold since 1992.
  • The number of kids being treated with antipsychotic drugs shot up 138% between 1997 and 2000.
  • In 2005, the main medical manual on the mental health of infants added two new subsets of depression, five new subsets of anxiety disorders and six new subsets of feeding behavior disorders.
  • There are 20M knitters in the US and more than ½ of them are under 34 with almost 6M of them being under 18.
  • In 2000, over 8% of teens were making money on the Internet.
  • There are 1.5M kids (between 8-18) that are vegetarians. 3M more who pass up meat but each chicken or fish. And, 3M more that each just chicken. 11% of girls aged 13-15 don’t eat meat.
    • Vegetarian men have been shown to have a 37% lower risk of heart disease.
    • Vegetarians of both genders are ½ as likely to develop dementia.
  • There are 9M morbidly obese people in the US (100 pounds overweight). Women are 2x as likely as men to be morbidly obese, but 1 in 6 black women are morbidly obese.
  • There is a small group of people practicing Calorie Restriction diets (1,200 – 1,800 calories).
    • Scientists have found that this lowers blood pressure, LDL, clogging of arteries, and body temperature (which may slow aging).
  • 6 of 10 Americans drink coffee every day. And, Americans drink 23 gallons of bottled water per year and 52 gallons of carbonated soft drinks.
  • The average age of caffeine overdosers was 21 in a study done around the Chicago Poison Center.
    • Caffeine causes insomnia, anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, cardiac arrhythmias, and weight gain.

“It is almost as though marketers see today’s society as an Amazon tribe, where women make all the decisions and men just go along for the ride.”

  • There are 12M “linguistically isolated” households in the US (i.e., no one speaks English well). And, in 2/3rds of these households, the head of household was born in the US. [Is multi-lingual soon to be a requirement?]
  • 1 in 3 Americans age 25-29 have a tattoo. 13% of Americans aged 18-24 have a tattoo and a body piercing.

Sample Healthcare Questions:

  1. How do we respond to the change in the family – older dates, commuter couples?
  2. With people working longer, what does this mean for health benefits? Are your needs and expectations different at age 75?
  3. When people are doing things that influence their health – sun tanning, sleeping too little, drinking too much caffeine, will companies step in and try to control this? (I know one large company in the South that has decided they won’t serve any fried food in the cafeteria.)
  4. Why don’t we do things like encourage pet adoption to help people become healthier?
  5. What are the implications of vegan children and low calorie diets and should the industry embrace, reward, or monitor them?
  6. When people don’t want to indicate a gender, will healthcare forms have to offer a “neither” category?
  7. With so many people getting tatooes, how long until that is a covered benefit or where there is a negotiated discount like the gym.
  8. There are lots of messy people. How do you communicate with them knowing they will misplace many things?
  9. For the people that have tried the Internet and chosen not to use it again, do you risk offending them with your constant push to self-serve?
  10. If America wants numbers, should we communicate more details not less?
  11. Should we be tracking lots of other factors (diet, caffeine, commute) in our Personal Health Records?

istock_000005278005medium.jpgI could go on, but I don’t want to give it all away. It is worth reading. It really makes you realize the value of targeting and personalization within a HealthComm framework.


  1. Silverlink Coming To A City Near You « Patient Centric Healthcare - April 28, 2008

    […] E. Kinney Zalesne, co-author of Microtrends […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: