By: Melody Dizon
It is interesting to note that with millennials’ availability of resources, ability to dive deeper into experimentation, depth of data after data, influx of sources of feeds, grasp of knowledge – one can think millenials will be more healthy than the previous generation, BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THE CURRENT STUDY SAYS. New research from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) suggests millennials may be substantially less healthy as they age. Analysis shows major depression, alcohol use disorder, and hypertension to be among the top 10 health conditions affecting millennials today. Other health issues arise:
• Millennials’ health declines sharply after age 27
• Millennials aged 34 to 36 in 2017 were 11 percent sick-er than Gen Xers aged 34 to 36 in 2014.
• Millennials have had a double digit increase in diagnoses for eight of the top 10 health conditions.
• When compared to the national population, millennials are more affected by behavioral health conditions than physical, with the highest increases shown in rates of major depression and hyperactivity.
• Millennials on track to be the most obese generation in history.
• Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are making millennials less healthy than generation X.
Although millennials may seem to have a greater investment in health and wellness than generations before them, findings from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) suggest millennials will be substantially not as well as can be expected as they increase in age.
The report defines the following as the top 10 conditions affecting millennials, ranked by adverse health impact:
Major depression, Substance use disorder, Alcohol use disorder, Hypertension, Hyperactivity, Psychotic conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, High cholesterol, Tobacco use disorder, Type 2 diabetes
“Because significant health challenges are rising among millennials earlier than in previous generations, we must address these issues now,” per Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).
Mental health conditions hit millennials hardest
When compared to the national population, millennials are more affected by behavioral health conditions than physical, with the highest increases shown in rates of major depression and hyperactivity. “While we may be seeing moderate diagnosis impact across all generations for previously stigmatized behavioral health conditions, millennials are seeing higher growth in prevalence than either Gen X or baby boomers,” Researchers believe the following circumstances in which millennials grew up are contributing factors:
1. Technological advances: Because of technology, millennials were the first generation to grow up without learning how to maintain eye contact, become adept at reading facial expressions, or deepen awareness of the textures of emotions within themselves or others- how true is this? We think, there’s no impact here, but there actually is. “This lack of emotional awareness, clinically called alexithymia, makes it hard for millennials to understand their thoughts and feelings,”researchers told Healthline.
2. Media overload: The media explosion of the internet created a 24-hour news cycle, which allowed millennial kids to access fearful news. Stories of terrorism, natural disasters, or catastrophes that were nonexistent generations ago, are now available around the clock. “Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear regarding these events permeated into the world of millennials either by witnessing such stories themselves, or through the contagious fear reactions from adults in their family circle.” i.e. suicidal bombs.
3. Everyone wins mentality: Learning how to win or lose was replaced by the safety zone of the reset and pause button. Everyone gets a trophy’ or ‘there are no strikeouts’ impedes the natural learning curve of dealing with failure and building resiliency. As a result, many millennials encounter difficulty tolerating stressful events, frustrating easily, and avoiding demands so as not to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to lose sometimes. Not every single time, you win. I feel, we are crippling our kids if all the time, we won’t let them experience failure. How sweet would victory then be with no defeat?
4. Two-income households: As more parents began working to meet financial demands, the millennial generation experienced a change that generations before didn’t have to. Not having the ease that previous generations had, like family dinner time and predictable work and weekend hours, created a more solitary world for millennials, wrapping them in a bubble of avoidance and isolation even more. Think about it. Though, not at all are given the opportunity to do this, I believe it is also a choice a family makesand living by that choice.
5. Undefined work schedules: While many older millennials have the opportunity to work in careers that don’t have set schedules and allow for remote access, the downside is they find themselves working on weekends and during vacations. And as such, [they] never really have ‘away time’ to decompress or refuel. All of these instances heighten physical and emotional risk factors. I am guilty of this and I don’t consider myself a millennial.
Dr. Jonathan Avery, director of addiction psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, adds that mental illness and substance use disorders start in adolescence and affect younger people more. “And millennials these days have a host of stressors, can be more isolated, and are exposed to a range of new, addicting devices as well,” he said. These does not help any.
How millennials can help themselves
Nelson says the best thing millennials can do for their health is to seek out preventive care so they receive proper diagnosis and treatment before a condition becomes unmanageable or life-threatening.
However, the BCBSA survey found that one-third of millennials don’t have a primary care provider, and most do not receive regular preventive care. Furthermore, most millennials only visit a doctor when they’re sick or something is broken. “Millennials are impacting not only their immediate health, but also their long-term health by not seeking preventative care,” said Nelson. “I would encourage all millennials to find and regularly consult a primary care provider if they do not already. You never know when you may need care, and many conditions can be treated more efficiently, and at a more affordable price, if brought to a physician’s attention early on. The biggest barrier he experiences with millennials is that they can’t afford to pay for psychotherapy. “They aren’t commanding the kind of salaries generations ago earned, and it just costs more to live now than compared to years ago,” he said. “Research also suggests that ‘cause’ motivates millennials more than ‘loyalty.’ Often, millennials don’t cultivate relationships with health professionals, which would lead to more streamlined care and consistent well-being.”He also encourages millennials to practice self-care.
“Self-care is a learned behavior. It isn’t something that just occurs. [Millennials should] focus on [incorporating] self-care skills like mindfulness, good eating, healthy sleep, and exercise into their life not for the short run, but as a long-term commitment,” he said. Unplugging from technology, work, and media, and replacing those with meaningful face-to-face time with others are other forms of self-care, Nelson recommends. Millennials can help reduce the stigma around mental illness by prioritizing their mental health, being open about their struggles, and getting help when they feel unwell or stressed. “Nobody is immune to mental illness and substance use disorders. [Millennials] should learn the signs and symptoms of these disorders in themselves and their peers,” he said.
How healthcare can change to help more millennials
To gain a better understanding of the decline in millennial’s health across all illnesses, the following were takeaways about how to better address current millennial lifestyles
Millennials want to be met where they are with access to their own health records and convenient care, including telemedicine — they don’t want another app to download.
Because millennials are disproportionately affected by behavioral health conditions, they prefer a holistic approach to their health that integrates both mind and body.
Millennials are much more comfortable in a friendly environment, which helps them trust providers to understand their culture, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual and gender identity.
Millennials would rather work in environments able to address behavioral health and its underlying issues without stigma.
At the end of the day, all millenials want is a healthcare that is welcoming, convenient, and integrated,” He says
This study scares me because it almost seems like, it mirrors exactly what we are already doing today. This is not far from now. I feel, human touch and human connection is obsolete or will one day be obsolete. The problems and diagnoses we see and treat are the exact ones mentioned in the study. I feel, I am watching a movie, an end of the world movie. Our world is what we make of it. There is so much to be said about human experience. Please, let us all do our part. If each one of us is going to reach out to someone – a touch, a smile, a hug, IT MATTERS. BECAUSE YOU MATTER.