It’s happening. Millennials are beginning to reach middle age. As of 2021, the older millennials, born between 1981 and 1988, have started turning 40.
And they are feeling it… More than the Gen Xers that are only a few years older.
According to a study conducted by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, millennials had substantially higher diagnoses for eight of the top 10 health conditions than Generation X, and based on their current health status, millennials are more likely to be less healthy when they’re older compared to Gen Xers. These findings are based on a study of millennials between 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014.
A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC Make It says that about 44% of older millennials are diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says there’s “no question” that some emerging evidence shows many millennials are unhealthier than predicted. He suspects the catalyst behind it to be hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, adding that the obesity epidemic may be one of the root causes of the rise in rates of hypertension, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
Ironically, studies show millennials are far less likely to be smokers, making diseases related to smoking less common.
So what are the most common ailments that older millennials are facing? The Make It survey says migraine headaches, major depression, and asthma are the top three, with type 2 diabetes and hypertension rounding out the top five.
These chronic ailments aren’t only affecting their health and wellbeing. They are blowing a major hit to their bank accounts and life savings.
Studies show those with at least one chronic condition spend twice as much on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses than those without any medical issues. Those with two concurrent chronic health issues spend five times as much.
Unfortunately for aging millennials, more diagnoses could appear after the pandemic lifts. The pandemic will likely result in new shifts in health trends and potentially lead to an influx of diagnoses over the next year, Dr. Benjamin says.
Even beyond Covid, the pandemic has severely decreased the number of Americans visiting their doctor, Benjamin says. About 70% of physicians surveyed by the American Medical Association reported providing fewer appointments since the crisis started, including both in-person and virtual. According to CDC data, emergency room visits were down 25% in December 2020 and January 2021 compared with a year earlier.
Dr. Benjamin explains, “Because we’ve been sequestered in our homes for a year, people have not gotten the screenings and medical care they need. As people go back to the doctor, we’re going to find cancers that should have been caught earlier. We’re going to find people who didn’t get their immunizations. We’re going to find the diabetes that was not diagnosed because they weren’t at the doctor.”
Only time will tell what lies on the health horizon for the rising middle-aged millennials. They’ve lived through “these uncertain times” just like the rest of us. One thing is for certain, though; we can still be proactive in our health journeys. We can still make good and wise choices to fuel our bodies and aid them any way we can.
While there may be disparities in same-age health comparisons, the advice to aging Millennials is the same as Gen X, Boomers, and everyone else alive: Eat the rainbow with an emphasis on things that grew in the ground, exercise, and sleep 7-8 hours a night. With those three steps, health outcomes are dramatically improved in every age category and at every stage of life!