A survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association shows that millennial Americans are experiencing double-digit increases in eight of 10 health conditions, including behavioral health issues like major depression, substance and alcohol abuse, and hyperactivity.
Brian Harvey, executive director, strategy at BCBSA explained that the organization creates an annual index, analyzing more than 200 conditions that comprise 99 percent of the claims.
The report focuses on 55 million commercially insured millennials ages 21-36 from 2014-2017. A section of the report compares how older millennials fare compare to Generation X counterparts at the same age.
Harvey said that many of the results were “surprising,” including the fact that a significant decline in health begins at age 27 and millennials age 34 to 36 are less healthy than General Xers were at that same age.
Major depression, hyperactivity, and diabetes showed increases of approximately 30 percent, with a hike of 31 percent among millennials for depression compared with 16 percent for Gen X and 14 percent for Boomers.
Substance abuse disorder increased by 10 percent and psychotic conditions rose by 15 percent.
More Diagnoses Affect the Increase
The de-stigmatization of mental health and increase in diagnoses contribute to the results, Harvey said.
“Higher diagnosis of depression is actually seen as a positive thing because the disorder is being caught, diagnosed, and treated versus the opposite and having an adverse impact,” Harvey said.
Depression has extensive co-morbidity with other conditions. People are likely taking care of themselves more if they have another health problem like diabetes along with their depression, he added.
Rhode Island, for example, had an outreach program with physicians to encourage them to apply the major depression diagnosis so that patients can get the treatment they need.
“Diagnosis plus treatment is the critical part,” Harvey said.
Katherine Dallow, MD, MPH, vice president of clinical programs and strategy at BCBS of Massachusetts, pointed out that her state was ranked eighth in terms of high depression levels.
She said that Massachusetts has more mental health professionals per capita than any other state.
“This larger care network means more diagnosis of these conditions,” she said.
Young Adults Plagued by Financial Worries
Young adults face more financial pressures in terms of higher cost of living and levels of student loan debt–both known contributors to stress to anxiety, Dallow noted.
Obesity, a lack of exercise, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle are believed to be other factors impacting the results.
To learn more about possible causes, BCBSA is conducting a series of “listening sessions,” across the country in 10 locations, meeting with providers, employers, and millennials themselves. They are discussing the report and its implications.
The sessions will culminate in a national event on November 6 in Philadelphia to talk about the overall health of millennials.
“We’ll also talk about some of the causes and possible ways to bend this curve and flatten it out a bit to prevent this downturn in health for this generation,” Harvey said.
The organization is working with Moody’s Analytics to look at what impact these health issues will have on the workforce in 10 years.
“Millennials are rapidly becoming the economic engine of the American workforce,” Harvey said. “What will that mean in terms of productivity and the cost of health care and quality of care going forward?”
Those results will be highlighted in an upcoming report.
- Geographically speaking, Maine has slightly more health issues than its New England counterparts.
- Women have 20 percent more adverse health issues than men.
- The other top conditions impacting millennials (not already mentioned) include hypertension, Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, and tobacco use disorder.