Report: Millennials facing health challenges earlier

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Millennials are facing health challenges at an earlier age than previous generations, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield report released in April.

Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996; they were between 21 and 36 years old in 2017. There are about 73 million in the U.S. The report focuses on the 55 million millennial Americans who are commercially insured.

According to the BCBS Health Index, millennials had an average BCBS Health Index of 95.1 in 2017, meaning that as a group, they are living at about 95% of their optimal health. The Index shows the major decline in health begins at age 27 on average.

Further data analysis reveals older millennials, ages 34 to 36, have higher prevalence rates for nearly all their top 10 conditions compared to Generation X members when they were in the same age range. The prevalence rate for almost all the top 10 conditions increased between 2014 and 2017.

Millennials were more affected by behavioral health conditions compared to the national population. The health conditions with the largest growth in prevalence included major depression, hyperactivity and Type 2 diabetes. Major depression within millennials increased by 31% in those three years.

Elizza LeJeune, a Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services clinician, said she has seen an increase of millennials receiving treatment over the past few years. She said several factors could lead to mental health concerns among young people, including more social media and less face-to-face contact.

“Some people that you think might have it all, especially looking on social media, are really struggling,” LeJeune said.

The good news is there is more awareness of mental health issues. It shows when looking at the numbers seen in the BCBS Health Index.

“I think that people just have the terminology, which is actually helpful for getting the help you need,” LeJeune said.

LeJenue said it’s good for struggling millennials to take a break, turn off devices, sit down with someone face-to-face and have a conversation. The most important thing for people to remember is to be present. It is also healthy to find a church, sport or activity to be involved in and feel connected to people.

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