Despite investing more in health and wellness, millennials do not age as healthily as Generation X, says study

Millennials have a higher incidence of depression and hypertension than generation X ever did. Data show that millennials face more behavioural disorders like major depression, substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder than physical ones

Myupchar October 07, 2019 14:50:09 IST
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Despite investing more in health and wellness, millennials do not age as healthily as Generation X, says study
  • According to a recent study, despite investing more in their health and wellness than any generation before them, millennials do not age healthily

  • Data show that millennials face more behavioural disorders than physical ones

  • According to BCBS Health Index data top mental illnesses faced by millennials are major depression, substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder

Born in the age of the Internet, the millennials believe in working hard, following their dreams and enjoying life to the fullest. But every coin has two sides. And the perfect world of the millennials also has its own sets of problems.

Despite investing more in health and wellness millennials do not age as healthily as Generation X says study

Representational image. AFP

According to a recent study by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS Association), despite investing more in their health and wellness than any generation before them, millennials do not age as healthily as generation X.

What the data says

The BCBS Association study focused on 55 million American millennials who are commercially insured. According to the BCBS Health Index, millennials enjoyed the best health, with a health index of 95.1 in their younger years, but lagged behind generation X as they grew older. In other words, older millennials have a higher incidence of the top 10 health conditions compared with generation X when they were the same age.

Top 10 health conditions

Data from the BCBS Health Index indicate a rise in the prevalence of these health conditions in American millennials from 2014 to 2017:

  • Major depression
  • Substance use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperactivity
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • High cholesterol
  • Tobacco use disorder
  • Type 2 diabetes

Millennials have the highest reported cases of behavioural health conditions like major depression (31 percent). Compared with the previous generation, hyperactivity is up 29 percent in millennials. More millennials also have Type 2 diabetes compared with generation X, by a factor of 1.4 times.

Research shows that up to 30 percent of young Indians between 10 years and 24 years suffer from "health-impacting behaviours". Not only is there a high incidence of substance abuse including alcohol abuse, but also nutritional disorders, high-risk sexual behaviours, and common mental disorders.

Millennials and Depression

Data show that millennials face more behavioural disorders (another term for mental health conditions) than physical ones.

According to health experts, the following factors act as catalysts:

  • Social Media: Millennials share a lot on social media, from thoughts to successes and holiday photos, everything is calibrated to tell a story about living the good life. This creates constant pressure of comparison and the feeling of being judged.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, a kind of stress that arises from looking at other people’s social media feed, is a real thing. Around-the-clock need to stay connected and the fear of missing out lead to low self-esteem and depression. Researchers say that high FOMO may lead to distracted walking, distracted driving, and dissatisfaction with the “here and now”.

In a 2014 study with 1,787 millennials who were frequently active on several social media platforms, researchers found that millennials (aged 19 to 32 years) who were active on more than seven social media accounts were three times more likely to face depression and anxiety than those who used a maximum of two social media handles.

  • Cyberbullying: Mental health experts define cyberbullying as “threatening or aggressive emails, texts or online posts, embarrassing or threatening pictures posted online, or using someone’s identity to send out or post embarrassing or threatening information”. Cyberbullying can lead to stress, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.
  • Feeling of loneliness: Loneliness is taking on epidemic proportions across the world, as more and more people turn to their screens to find like-minded people. According to one estimate, 8 percent of India's urban youth feel lonely and 12 percent feel depressed frequently.

Research shows that people who are lonely are likely to die younger. To deal with this issue, the UK now has a minister of loneliness. The Japanese government is creating social hubs, to encourage more face to face interaction.

The good news is that compared with previous generations, millennials tend to be more open about sharing their mental health concerns and seeking medical help for conditions like anxiety and depression. Greater awareness and research by institutions like the World Health Organization is also helping to create a more supportive atmosphere.

Thus, every year since 1992, the World Federation for Mental Health has marked 10 October as World Mental Health Day to raise awareness and make treatment accessible to more people in need.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, read our articles on Depression and Hypertension.

Every day until World Mental Health Day, myUpchar will publish stories on the most pressing mental health concerns in India on Firstpost. This is the second story in our series on mental health conditions.

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