Millennials face health challenges earlier than other generations

By Amy Baxter for Health Exec

Older millennials are facing health challenges sooner than other generations, with higher prevalence rates for some conditions, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index.

The index looked at the health of millennials, or the generation of 73 million individuals born in the U.S. between 1981 and 1996. The index specifically focused on the 55 million millennials who were commercially insured in 2017.

Overall, millennials had a health index of 95.2, which meant the group was living at about 95% of optimal health. However, older millennials between 34 and 36 had higher rates of the top 10 conditions compared to the previous generation, Generation X, when they were the same age. The top 10 conditions include: major depression, substance abuse disorder, alcohol use disorder, hypertension, hyperactivity, psychotic conditions, Crohn’s disease/Ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, tobacco use disorder and type II diabetes.

In fact, the index found major decline in health begins at age 27, with the largest growth in prevalence for major depression, hyperactivity and type II diabetes from 2014 to 2017. Over that time period, major depression prevalence increased 21%, hyperactivity jump 29%, and type II diabetes prevalence rose 22%.

Prevalence of these conditions is higher in millennials than Gen Xers who were between 34 and 36 in 2014. Hyperactivity prevalence was 37% higher for this group of millennials in 2017 compared to Gen Xers. It was also 19% higher for type II diabetes and 18% higher for major depression. Only psychotic conditions were less prevalent among millennials than Gen Xers, while alcohol use disorder was equal between the two generations. Altogether, millennials had 11% more adverse health across the conditions measured.

The findings could inform how the health of millennials, which are set to become the largest group in the workforce in the coming years, will impact the economy.

“BCBS Health Index data underscores the urgency for the healthcare community to recognize that millennial Americans are experiencing double-digit increases in prevalence for eight of the top 10 health conditions,” the report concludes. “Additionally, millennials had significantly higher prevalence rates than did their Gen X counterparts at the same age. The health status of millennials will likely have substantial effects on the American economy over the next two decades—including workplace productivity and healthcare costs.”

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