As a millennial, I’m one of the 73 million people who was born between 1981 and 1996. That’s why I was curious when the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) published their Health of America Report on Millennial Health.
Our generation has a lot going for it: we’re more educated and diverse than previous generations, and we’re seeing more women in the workforce. However, there are some areas where previous generations have us beat. One major one? Health. Millennials are less healthy than Generation X at the same age. It’s clear that younger generations are facing health challenges at earlier ages than previous generations. With more millennials entering the workforce every year, employers can’t afford to ignore this trend.
Health of America Report on Millennial Health
If you missed the BCBSA’s Health of America Report on Millennial Health, some surprising results came from the Association’s close look at millennials’ claims data. For example, 6 out of the top 10 conditions affecting millennials are related to behavioral health, including major depression, substance abuse disorder, and hyperactivity, in addition to physical health conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Health of America Forum
After the release of this study, BCBSA and Independence Blue Cross held a forum in Philadelphia to offer business leaders, health care professionals, and leaders in our communities a chance to understand more about millennials.
There was a lot of great content that came out of the forum, but one particular highlight for me was hearing from Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn about the behavioral health issues that she’s experienced. I admire that she’s serving as a role model and working to de-stigmatize behavioral health issues in the athlete community.
She touched on how mental health and physical health are interdependent, which is true. It’s been proven that people with depression and other mental health diagnoses are also much likelier to have chronic conditions like diabetes.
Millennials have unique challenges that other generations don’t have: crippling student loan debt, social media consumption, the real time news feed, and our inability to truly disconnect. All of these factors add to stress. For example, I check my work email all the time. At 11 o’clock at night, I check my email. The second I wake up, I check my email. It’s hard to walk away and wind down because it’s always available and updating. I know I should be turning off my phone before bed to truly relax and get a good night’s sleep, but it’s difficult.
With social media, people are comparing themselves to something that isn’t real. There’s a whole industry of it — people photoshopping their images and posting them. Nobody’s life is as glamourous as it appears on social media, so you’re comparing yourself to a false reality. It adds to your stress because you feel like you’re not keeping up with where you should be. Everyone goes through hard times, but if someone’s struggling with something, they may not be posting about it.
Millennial Challenges During COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 global pandemic has affected people from all demographics, it has presented some unique challenges for millennials.
- Mental health challenges. For millennials who were already experiencing stress, loneliness, and depression, social isolation is amplifying these conditions.
- Worry about parents. Many millennials are experiencing a role reversal with their parents: we are worried about our parents’ health, and whether or not they are taking social distancing seriously.
- Challenges with children. For millennials who are either expecting or have small children, the pandemic has caused stress, whether it’s the challenge of caring for children while working from home, or the uncertainties expecting parents face.
- Delayed milestones. More than other generations, millennials have delayed major life milestones due to COVID-19, including postponing weddings, delaying buying a house, or putting off having a child.
- Financial hardship. Many millennials are dealing with pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. This is compounded by the fact that this is the second financial crisis in our lifetimes.
Prioritizing Mental Health During COVID-19
Right now, things may not feel normal, and you may find it difficult to stay positive. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take care of your mental health.
- Keep a regular schedule. A loose routine will help you maintain a sense of normalcy. It can be as simple as a rough outline of work hours, exercise, meals, downtime, and time to connect with family and friends.
- Focus on your health. In addition to getting enough sleep, make sure to get regular exercise, whether it’s going outside for a walk or jog, or taking advantage of online workout classes. It’s also a great time to try some new, healthy recipes.
- Stay in contact with your family and friends. Social distancing does not mean social isolation! Stay in touch via video chats, weekly calls, or virtual game nights.
- Get some fresh air. Mother Nature works wonders for your mental health, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day. While outside, make sure to maintain social distancing and follow all local laws.
- Get mental health support. Schedule a telemedicine visit with your current behavioral health doctor or find a new doctor. In addition to your own mental health, make sure to check on family and friends.
For employers looking to appeal to the soon-to-be largest generation in the U.S. workforce, pay attention to what millennials are looking for: wellness programs and incentives, mental health benefits, clarity around what’s covered, text solutions, and telemedicine. Employers can also find further insights at smarterbetterhealthcare.com.