Compared to the generation before them, Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—are better educated, more connected and make up a larger portion of the workforce, but recent data also suggest they are less healthy and are seeing a faster decline in both physical and behavioral health than previous generations as they age.
A new report from Moody’s Analytics, The Economic Consequences of Millennial Health, looks at the substantial effects the health status of this generation will have on the U.S. economy over the next decade if the current pace of health deterioration continues without intervention.
Physical health deteriorating at a faster pace
Coming into their most formative years, Millennials appear to be less healthy than previous generations. In fact, a previous Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) report on millennial health shows eight of the top 10 health conditions, including high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol, are more common among older Millennials than they were among Gen-Xers at the same age. Many of these conditions can be prevented or treated and managed early, but some, including hypertension and high cholesterol, grow more costly to treat over time as they progress into increasingly serious conditions.
Yet, there are signs of missed prevention opportunities. A recent national survey by BCBSA found that two-thirds of Millennials only see a doctor when they are sick, and 68 percent don’t have a primary care physician because they don’t think they need one. They seek care only when a major problem develops. Without intervention to prevent or best manage the severity of disease, mortality rates could rise more than 40 percent compared to the previous generation at the same age.
New stressors, worsening behavioral health
Millennials face new stressors at a younger age compared to previous generations. Nationwide, listening sessions conducted by BCBSA showed the rise of social media, a 24/7 workforce, high student loan debt and increased cost of living may be contributing to greater instances of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and hyperactivity among this generation.
The increase in prevalence of such conditions will impact the economic outlook for both Millennials and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Less health, less wealth
Millennials make up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce, making them the largest age group in the labor pool. But if the trend of declining health continues, economic growth is likely to slow as they age, with Millennials likely facing health-related job loss and reduced working hours. Data show that under the most adverse set of projections, Millennials could lose more than $4,500 of real per-capita income per year due to lower levels of health, compared to Generation X.
Beyond just slowing overall economic growth, these health patterns are likely to exacerbate underlying personal financial issues and unemployment, particularly in regions already struggling economically.
Projections show Millennials face medical treatment costs as much as 33 percent higher than what Generation X experienced at the same age. The increased financial burden will likely increase the prevalence of behavioral health concerns among Millennials, who already have less household wealth than the previous generation and often cite financial issues as a major cause for concern.
Where do we go from here?
Millennials have ushered in significant cultural and societal shifts, and their impact on the nation’s overall health and its healthcare system is another by-product of this generation’s unique experience. The generation values personalized care, with integrated treatment for physical and behavioral health. Employers, clinicians, health plans and the government will need to look more closely at addressing the emerging health needs of Millennials to halt the worrisome trends of declining health and increased costs.
The study was produced by Moody’s Analytics which analyzed the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health IndexSM. The Index quantifies more than 300 health conditions to identify which may affect the longevity and quality of life of Americans and is made up of annual data from the more than 41 million commercially insured Blue Cross and Blue Shield members nationwide. Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s Corporation, helps capital markets and risk practitioners worldwide respond to an evolving marketplace with confidence. Moody’s Analytics offers unique tools and best practices for measuring and managing risk through credit analysis, economic research, and financial risk strategy.