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Millennials’ health poorer than GenXers’ at same age

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The major decline in millennials' health begins at age 27, and there are actually double-digit increases for eight of the top 10 health conditions among millennials. (Image: Chris Nicholls/ALM)

Behavioral health problems are taking a toll on millennials—from depression to anxiety and substance use. And as a result, they’re less healthy than GenXers were at their age.

So says the Health of America study from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which found that a third of millennials are suffering from health conditions that impair both quality of life and life expectancy. The study also found that millennials diagnosed with eight of 10 leading health conditions more often than Gen X are more likely to be less healthy than their Gen X counterparts when they’re older.

Related: Millennials face greater risk of obesity-related cancer than Boomers

Cardiovascular and endocrine issues including diabetes top the list, and they hit millennials harder than they did GenXers. And women really come out the losers, being 20 percent less healthy than their male contemporaries—driven down by “higher rates of major depression, type II diabetes, and endocrine conditions.”

Yet a recent BCBSA survey found that millennials think they’re actually pretty healthy, with 83 percent saying they’re in good or excellent health. But while 91 percent of GenXers have a primary care physician, which can make a big difference in preventive care, just 68 percent of millennials do.

The major decline in health, the report says, begins at age 27, and there are actually double-digit increases for eight of the top 10 health conditions among millennials—six of which are behavioral health conditions and four of which are physical. Major depression, for instance, has risen by 31 percent among millennials from 2014 to 2017; hyperactivity has risen by 29 percent during that period and type II diabetes is up by 22 percent.

The other seven conditions are substance use disorder (up by 10 percent); alcohol use disorder (up by one percent); hypertension (up by 16 percent); psychotic conditions (up by 15 percent); Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis (up by 10 percent); high cholesterol (up by 12 percent); and tobacco use disorder (up by 7 percent).

Older millennials in southern states are less healthy than their contemporaries in other parts of the country, too, while those in western states tend to be healthier.

The report points out, “The health status of millennials will likely have substantial effects on the American economy over the next two decades—including workplace productivity and health care costs.”

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