- American millennials are seeing their physical and mental health decline at a faster rate than Gen X did as they age, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report.
- Without proper management, millennials could see a 40% uptick in mortality compared to Gen-Xers of the same age, the report stated.
- Behavioral health is a key factor behind the decline of millennials’ health: The generation has seen a rise in depression and “deaths of despair.”
- The financial burdens millennials are facing not only affect their mental health, but also prevent them from seeking treatment in a time when healthcare costs are on the climb.
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American millennials aren’t exactly the picture of health.
They’re seeing their physical and mental health decline at a faster rate than Gen X did as they age, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report.
According to the report’s baseline projection, which represents the outcome of “health shocks” in the past, it’s possible this downhill path can be rectified with proper management. But without intervention, millennials could see a 40% increase in mortality compared to Gen-Xers of the same age, according to the report’s adverse projection.
In this scenario, millennials could end up shelling out a third more in treatment costs than Gen-Xers of the same age, thanks to a greater need for treatment and rising healthcare costs.
Healthcare is one of four key costs plaguing millennials. In 1960, the average annual health-insurance cost per person was $146 – in 2016, it hit $10,345. When adjusted for inflation, that’s a ninefold increase. Costs are expected to further increase to $14,944 in 2023.
Poorer health could also make millennials less likely to participate in the US labor market, resulting in higher unemployment and loss of annual income by more than $4,500 per person, according to the Blue Cross report.
The report attributes this millennial health decline to both physical conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and to behavioral health – particularly the rise in depression, hyperactivity (such as anxiety or ADHD), and substance abuse.
A rise in depression and “deaths of despair”
According to the report, rates of depression and hyperactivity among American millennials increased by around 30% from 2014 to 2017.
These findings are underscored by previous reports that analyzed data from Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Health Index. One found that major depression diagnoses are rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens than they are for any other age group.
That’s not to mention the rise in accidental deaths. Accidental deaths overall make up a larger share of mortality among millennials than they did for Gen-Xers at the same age, according to the most recent Blue Cross report. It’s worth noting that accidental deaths from heroin and other opioid overdoses specifically have increased by 1,400% among all generations from 2010 to 2017.
A report by the public-health groups Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust yielded similar findings earlier this year: More millennials are also dying “deaths of despair,” or deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide, Jamie Ducharme reported for Time in June.
While these deaths have increased across all ages in the past 10 years, they’ve increased the most among younger Americans, Ducharme said. They accounted for the deaths of about 36,000 American millennials in 2017 alone, according to the report. Drug overdoses were the most common cause of death.
Millennials struggle to afford the help they need
There are several reasons behind the upticks in “deaths of despair,” according to the Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust report. Young adults are more inclined to engage in risk-taking behaviors; they comprise the highest number of enrolled military personnel; and they disproportionately live in “high-stress environments” like correctional facilities.
But there are other structural factors at play, the report stated – namely the myriad financial problems millennials are facing: student-loan debt, healthcare, childcare, and an expensive housing market.
This affordability crisis has become so bad that some millennials can’t afford treatment. In fact, one in five millennials diagnosed with major depression doesn’t seek treatment, according to a Blue Cross report, and it’s likely because they can’t afford to do so.
It’s a vicious cycle: Money struggles aren’t only hurting millennials’ health, they’re also preventing millennials from seeking help for those very issues.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as the best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.