Millennials are often accused of being self-centered or entitled, and while many of those claims are overblown, one particular action that millennials are guilty of—not donating blood—could be significantly impacting public health.
A recent article appearing on Side Effects entitled, As Loyal Donors Age, Industry Is Out For Young Blood, reports that fewer than 10% of blood donations come from those aged 23-29, while just over 12% are given by those in their 30s. On the other hand, almost 60% of donations are from those over 40.
What has caused this discrepancy? According to the article, people growing up during WWII—and their children—saw donating blood as a cultural norm, a civic duty even. Unfortunately, donating blood seems to have shifted from an obligation to an often forgotten option over the years.
While older generations continue to donate blood, these regulars are aging out of the donor pool. It’s thus essential to draw in younger generations to keep the vital pool of life-saving blood flowing.
Over the past decade or so, blood banks have managed to increase blood donations from those aged 16-22 by hosting high school or college blood drives. This success is laudable, but it hasn’t made up for the low rates of donation from those aged 23 or older who have already left school.
And while blood use has dropped by almost a third over the past decade due to surgical improvements and blood conservation efforts, the dip in donors has fallen even faster, from 14.2 million units in 2013 to an estimated 11 million in 2016.
Having enough donated blood is key to treating injuries and diseases, and failing to address the low rates of blood donation could have dire effects. In fact, sporadic shortages have begun to occur in several parts of the country and at times of historically low donation. The shortages will only become more frequent and more severe if new donors aren’t brought on.
So what can we do to educate millennials about the importance of blood donation and make it a part of their lives? Marie Forrestal, president of the Association of Donor Recruitment Professionals, and her team have tried some innovative techniques, such as leading Pokémon Go players to a blood center as part of the game.
Forrestal may be onto something. While millennials may be harder to reach in person, they are incredibly connected to the online world, social media, and their phones. Perhaps blood donation centers would have greater luck by targeting millennials via social media. Partnering up with brands popular among those in their 20s and 30s to host blood donation events could also help make giving blood “cool” again.
After all, it’s not that millennials are selfish—it’s that most have simply not grown up being taught that donating blood is a habit that they should regularly engage in.
So, if you’re a millennial reading this—consider donating now! And then be sure to spread the word—maybe take a donation selfie?—to your friends and family members. Together, we can truly make a difference.