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Millennials Have Worse Health Than Gen Xers Did at Same Age, Driven by Mental Health

Laura Joszt
New report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds millennials are less healthy than Generation X was at the same age. Millennials are also less likely to have a primary care provider and seek regular preventive care.
There are nearly 73 million millennials in the United States, making them the second-largest generation among commercially insured Americans, but a new report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has found that millennials are not only less healthy than the generation before them—Generation X (Gen X)—at the same age, but they are also less likely to have a primary care provider and seek preventive care regularly.

BCBSA studied medical claims in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index for millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2014.

BCBSA also surveyed millennials and Gen Xers and found that while 83% of millennials thought they were in good or excellent health, only 68% of them have a primary care physician. In contrast, 91% of Gen Xers said they have a primary care physician.

The findings show that millennials are not seeking preventive care, which is having an effect on their immediate and long-term health, according to Vincent Nelson, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA.

The top 10 conditions, ranked by adverse health impact affecting millennials, and the prevalence rate in 2017, are:
  1. Major depression (5.0%)
  2. Substance use disorder (0%)
  3. Alcohol use disorder (1.5%)
  4. Hypertension (8.1%)
  5. Hyperactivity (6.8%)
  6. Psychotic conditions (0.9%)
  7. Crohn disease/ulcerative colitis (1.0%)
  8. High cholesterol (6.2%)
  9. Tobacco use disorder (5.6%)
  10. Type 2 diabetes (2.3%)
The BCBSA report noted that millennials were more affected by behavioral health conditions than the general population. For almost all 10 conditions, millennials had a higher prevalence than Gen Xers at the same age a few years earlier. The biggest difference was hyperactivity with a 37.0% difference in prevalence, followed by type 2 diabetes (19.0% difference). The only exceptions were alcohol use disorder, for which both groups had a 1.5% prevalence, and psychotic disorders, for which Gen Xers had a slightly higher prevalence (0.6% vs 0.5%).

The analysis of 41 million deidentified medical claims in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index found that overall health begins to decline at age 27.

“With millennials on track to become the largest generation in the near future, it’s critical that they’re taking their health maintenance seriously,” Nelson said in a statement. “Our plan is to address this issue now to ensure millennials, and all Americans, take a proactive role in maintaining their health and well-being.”

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