The Family of Millenials
is Crucial to Treatment Admissons

A marketing analysis of family from the 2020 Guide to Marketing Addiction Treatment to Millennials

Bottom Line

If you want to increase phone calls from those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or for their loved ones, you should speak to their heart by talking about their family.


In 2016, about 21 million people aged 12 and older, or almost 1 in 13 people in this age group, needed substance abuse treatment.1 However, only an estimated 3.8 million people aged 12 and older received treatment. This means that only 18% of those who needed treatment received the help they needed.1

In order to capture a larger market share, those in the addiction treatment industry should consider marketing that highlights emotional ties to family values to their audience. Effective marketing showcases solutions to create an emotional connection and increase motivation to purchase.

Family is often the factor that causes people to reach out for treatment. This can be because of stress caused by family members or because a family member is the one suggesting that someone needs help.

Know the Facts of Millennials and Family

Delayed Family Milestones from Recession

Millennials have been labeled as self-involved and selfish, but as they have aged, that has proven to be incorrect. Millennials were born 1981-1996 and grew into adulthood just as the recession of 2009 hit,2 which has delayed a lot of the traditional milestones such as marriage and starting a family.3

In 2016, 48% of Millennial women (ages 20 to 35 at the time) were moms. But in 2000, when women from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) were the same age, 57% were already moms, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data.3

Family Roles are Their Priority

Millennials also prioritize their families in a way that previous generations did not. Modern parents spend more time with their children than parents of any other time since the 1960s.4 In 2015, mothers spent an average of 15 hours a week and fathers 9 hours a week caring for their children. In contrast, in 1965 mothers spent 10 hours a week and fathers.4

While they appear to be delaying having a family, that does not mean that millennials don’t value family, it appears to be the opposite. More than 52% of Millennials said being a good parent was a top life priority.3 30% rated having a good marriage as one of their most important life goals.3

Family is Reliable for Health Information

The millennial demographic is almost as likely to rely on family and friends (25%) as physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professional (27%) for information about their health.2

Millennial Stress: Parents vs. Non-Parents

Millennials value their families, but there is no denying that family obligations add another layer of difficulty and stress that single people do not face.

Lack of Emotional Support

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 report on Stress in America, 28% of parents and 34% of Millennials report feeling a sense of loneliness/isolation due to stress in the past month, compared with 24% of Americans overall.5

Not only are millennial parents more stressed, they do not have adequate resources to deal with their stress. Roughly one-quarter of parents (26%) and Millennials (25%) say that they do not have emotional support.5

Sources of Stress

Parents are more likely than non-parents to cite money (77% vs. 60%), family responsibilities (65% vs. 42%), and housing costs (54% vs. 36%) as very or somewhat significant sources of stress.5

Also worth noting is that the most commonly reported sources of stress include money (64% report that this is a very or somewhat significant source of stress), work (60%), the economy (49%), and family responsibilities (47%).5

Women are also more likely than men to report family responsibilities (55% vs. 39%) as very or somewhat significant sources of stress.5 With women still managing the bulk of household and parenting responsibility, this is easily understood.

Stress Management Techniques

Parents are also more likely than non-parents to report engaging in unhealthy stress management techniques, such as drinking alcohol (18% vs. 12%) and smoking (17% vs. 10%). More parents than non-parents also say that stress prevented them from making a lifestyle change even though it would benefit their families (16% vs. 11% of non-parents).5 However, families are not only causes of stress on Millennials. They are also a powerful and emotionally compelling reason to make changes for those suffering from addiction.

Family is the Main Catalyst for Treatment

Frequently, a family member is the reason for someone to seek treatment for their addiction. In our 2020 Millennial Insights Research Report, we found that the desire to improve their relationships with family is an important factor in choosing to seek treatment.

A substance abuse counselor that we interviewed for that report said,

“There are definitely some clients who their parents say, “you have to get sober or you can’t live at my house anymore.”

Another clinician we interviewed said that most people in treatment made the decision because their family was pressuring them to get help:

“There’s a [small] percentage that come in on their own, but 90% of them come from their family wanting them to get clean.”

A third clinician said,

 “Sometimes, even some of the younger fellas that are married, they’ve been pushed by the wives to come in. So, it might be, a lot of times, we’ll see like a threat of a divorce or even a separation that’s occurred. And so, the motivation is coming from loss of family.”

The reasons that people seek treatment are often emotionally intertwined. There may be a loved one, a parent, spouse, or child asking the person to seek treatment. There may be some self-worth issues tied up into that as well. The person who needs the treatment usually has to reach a state of emotional turmoil that will motivate them to make a change.

How Your Brand Attracts Customers

According to Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, emotion is necessary for almost every decision.6 When we face a decision, past experiences influence our current perceptions.

The Connection Between Brand Positioning and Customer Purchasing Decisions

The perception of a brand is largely built around the brand’s personality. Research shows that consumers perceive the same personality traits in brands that they do in other people.6 Consumers are also attracted to some personality traits more than others, and this attraction is based in emotion – not logic.6

As Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, wrote in Fast Company,

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”7

Another important point for marketing in emotion is the brand story or narrative. Your brand should be relatable, and the easiest way for consumers to relate is by a compelling story.

Finally, the most important point is that emotions push us to act. Consumer purchasing behavior is not driven by logic; it is driven by emotion.7

Resonate with Emotionally Compelling Content

Millennials are used to being bombarded by advertising and tend to ignore, if not be turned off by the onslaught. Addiction treatment centers who are targeting this demographic need to create emotionally compelling content that will resonate with this audience.

Real stories resonate. High-quality content puts the customer at the center of your story. For Millennials suffering from addiction, they want to be better parents, make their family members proud, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Authentic brand messaging that speaks to these family goals, offering a way to calm the emotional turmoil, will speak to them and encourage them to reach out to you instead of your competition.

Active Marketing: Proven Game Changers

Active Marketing has transformed addiction treatment businesses with our strategic horsepower. We have proven experience developing and executing marketing strategies that get your brand’s best messaging in front of the right people at the right time and place. Our impact on our clients’ bottom lines changes the way they do business. We’d love to talk to you more about your potential.

Give us a call today: (877) 947-2605