Millennials are facing unprecedented levels of chronic illness, the decline in health by 27
Have you heard of the “club 27” before? It’s an infamous list of famous musicians who passed away at the untimely age of 27. Notable names include Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, and more recently Amy Winehouse. But, for Millennials, there’s far more to this story.
The fact is: American Millennials – the nearly 73 million people who were born between 1981 and 1996 – are now facing a serious health problem – in addition to the sobering epidemic of drug abuse and overdose. That problem? Chronic illness.
Millennials in this country were between the ages of 21 to 36 years old back in 2017. Why is this important to know? Because a recent report from the health insurance bigwig Blue Cross Blue Shield highlighted some surprising trends about the health and lifestyle of the people of this generation. And, the results may shock you!
Warning to Millennials: Chronic illness now being diagnosed at unprecedented ages in the U.S., according to health insurance data
It’s strange, right?
When we think of chronic illness we picture older adults and seniors, not young and otherwise sprightly people who are just starting families and just beginning their careers.
But the sad reality – as supported by the data – is that the Millennials living in our country are surprisingly unhealthy. They are not only facing a shorter lifespan but a drastically shorter healthspan, too. (Healthspan is defined as the period’s of one’s life in which they are healthy and free of disease, and is generally associated with a higher quality of life).
Here are a few “highlights” (if we can call them that) from Blue Cross Blue Shield’s report, or its so-called Health Index:
- An overall decline in health begins at age 27 for Millennials. Beyond this age, health outcomes are overwhelmingly worse and worse as the year's pass.
- The top ten chronic health conditions affecting Millennials all saw an increase in prevalence between 2014 and 2017. These include major depression, substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, hypertension, hyperactivity, psychotic disorder, Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, tobacco use disorder, and type II diabetes. All but TWO of these conditions saw between a 10 to 31% rise in prevalence.
- 6 of these top 10 health conditions are related to mental and behavioral health.
- Millennial women have about 20% more adverse health effects than millennial men, but both are less healthy overall than the previous generation (Gen X) was at the same age.
- The vast majority (85%) of Millennials who are diagnosed with depression are also living with at least one other health condition.
It’s almost unbelievable that the tender age of 27 could be considered the “tipping point” for health, the best of what the typical millennial could expect for their wellness. Then again, when we consider the lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors facing our young people today – highly processed foods, environmental toxins, digital technology addiction, sedentary lifestyles, etc. – this shocking trend starts to make a bit more sense.
Is there hope? Tips for millennials who want to improve their lifestyle, prevent or reverse chronic illness
Research indicates that the majority of one’s health is directly related to preventable lifestyle factors which are within one’s ability to control and influence.
The good news is that for the sick, depressed, and chronically ill millennials, there is hope. Here are a few healthy lifestyle tips to keep in mind that may stave off chronic illness and keep people healthier way into the latter parts of one’s life:
- Maintain lean body weight. Obesity (affecting nearly 40% of Americans according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is a major risk factor for chronic illness and can even be considered one itself.
- Get active every day. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days of the week, when your pulse gets up to about 70% of your maximum heart rate.
- Eat real food. Make the majority of your diet from plants, healthy fats, and organic/locally sourced/humane protein sources. Avoid processed junk!
- Get enough sleep. Yes, people really DO need an average of 6 – 8 (quality) hours of sleep per night.
Sources for this article include:
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