Millennials less heart-healthy than Gen Xers at the same age

Millennials in their mid-thirties are less healthy than Generation Xers were at the same age, a recent analysis by Blue Cross Blue Shield found—a gap driven largely by poorer mental, cardiovascular and endocrine health outcomes in the younger generation.

According to the BCBS Health Index, millennials—anyone born between 1981 and 1996—were living at around 95% of their optimal health in 2017. The majority of the population would have been in their twenties and early thirties at that point, but a deeper dive into the data revealed significantly higher rates of depression, hypertension and diabetes in millennials aged 34-36.

Health Index data tells us the top 10 conditions affecting millennials are major depression, substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, hypertension, hyperactivity, psychotic conditions, Crohn’s disease, high cholesterol, tobacco use disorder and type 2 diabetes. Between 2014 and 2017 millennials saw a 31% hike in major depression, a 29% increase in hyperactivity, a 22% increase in type 2 diabetes and a 16% rise in hypertension; alcohol use disorder was the sole condition that stayed somewhat stagnant in prevalence, affecting 1.5% of the population.

Comparing Gen Xers who were 34-36 years old in 2014 to millennials of the same age in 2017, the BCBS report found higher prevalence rates among the latter group for 8 of the top 10 conditions. Millennials were 18% more likely to have major depression, 37% more likely to be hyperactive, 15% more likely to have Crohn's disease and 19% more likely to have type 2 diabetes than Gen Xers of the same age, and they were 7% and 10% more likely to exhibit high cholesterol and hypertension, respectively.

BCBS consolidated the top 10 health conditions into four aggregate groups representing behavioral, cardiovascular, endocrine and other physical conditions.

“Millennials had 11% more total adverse health across these condition groupings than did Gen Xers when they were the same age,” the report read. “This increase was driven by a 21% increase in cardiovascular conditions and a 15% increase in endocrine conditions, including diabetes. Behavioral health conditions explain about 40% of adverse health for both millennials and Gen Xers.”

BCBS said the health status of millennials is likely to have a big impact on the American economy over the next 20 years, including in healthcare costs and workplace productivity. The company is launching a series of listening sessions across the U.S. that will detail how the healthcare system can best adapt to serve the millennial generation.