Millennials don’t go to the doctor as often as past generations. But when they do, they often choose an urgent care or retail clinic over primary care for convenience. You’d think needing fewer doctors visits means they’re healthier, right?
Wrong. A new study shows that millennials are actually less healthy in many ways than people from Generation X were at the same age.
The study, which was conducted by insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, found that one-third of millennials have a health condition that could lower both their overall life expectancy and quality of life. Older millennials (between ages 34 and 36) were especially impacted.
The study used claims from more than 55 million commercially insured millennials living in the United States and looked at the general health of millennials who were born between 1981 and 1996.
8 health conditions millennials face
The study found that millennials struggle with eight specific conditions in particular. Researchers noted that millennials had a higher incidence of these conditions compared to when older Americans in Generation X were the same age.
Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
These inflammatory bowel conditions are caused by digestive inflammation and can include abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition, among other symptoms.
Type 2 diabetes
This most common form of diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly, which can cause blood glucose levels to rise higher than is normal. Type 2 diabetes is both genetic and developed because of lifestyle and being overweight.
This condition leads to a higher risk for developing heart disease. Often, high cholesterol is the result of a combination of genetics and a diet high in saturated fat, according to the American Heart Association.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is defined by inattention or impulsive actions that can interfere with your personal and professional life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people can experience varying levels of ADHD.
This is another term for high blood pressure, which can put you at risk for other conditions like heart disease, stroke and even early death.
This condition is common but serious, according to the NIMH. Depression can make it hard to handle daily activities and is often marked by long-term and persistent feelings of low energy, social withdrawal, increased sleep and more. Major depression is also linked to the risk of suicide.
Substance use disorders
These disorders are marked by the recurrent use of alcohol and drugs, to the point in which the substances cause mental impairment, health issues and a negative impact on your life.
Tobacco use disorder
This is the most common substance abuse disorder in the U.S., and it involves addiction to tobacco, according to the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.
Why does primary care matter?
The study found that the prevalence of these conditions had increased for millennials since 2014, especially in regard to depression, hyperactivity and Type 2 diabetes.
“With younger generations facing health challenges at earlier ages than previous generations, measuring the health of millennials is critical to improving this generation’s long-term health and wellness,” the study’s authors write.
They also note that there was a massive increase in behavioral health conditions for millennials, which suggests that healthcare organizations should be focused on providing better mental and behavioral health resources for young people.
With all of this in mind, establishing care with a primary care doctor becomes even more important for millennials. Primary care doctors are trained to look for and address all of the above conditions with screenings and treatment plans, something that urgent and virtual care physicians may not dive into.
“It’s important to begin screenings that are age-appropriate for wellness. We recommend that patients establish a go-to place for acute care and ongoing healthcare needs,” says Dr. Nina Maisterra, a family medicine doctor and clinic chief at the new UW Neighborhood South Lake Union Clinic. “Primary care is the foundation for prevention, great health outcomes and long-term medical relationships.”