From The Editor: December 2019
Millennial health crisis
By Jannen Belbeck
“millennials will get sick and die faster than the previous generation.” How’s that for a headline? At first glance, the article penned by Vice Media is full of exaggerated prose.
Still, when I took a look at the 32-page report (“The economic consequences of Millennial health”) from Blue Cross Blue Shield, it was painting a bleak picture of my generation. Although subject to debate, research giants (like the Pew Research Center) all use the timeframe of those born between 1981 and 1996 to reference Millennials.
The executive summary of the report highlights three main findings: #1) Millenials are seeing their health decline faster than the previous generation as they age (referenced as a “health shock.”) even extending to behavioural health conditions. It states: “without intervention, Millenials could see mortality rates climb up by more than 40% compared to Gen-Xer’s of the same age.” This means that (#2), there will be a great demand for treatment and higher healthcare costs. The report projects that fees will be as much as 33% higher than Gen-Xers experienced. Then, this reduced state of health means that (#3) this generation is unable to contribute as much to the economy, which manifests itself through “higher unemployment and slower income growth.”
The report paints two scenarios: The Baseline is conditioned on how history has played out (both the Silent Generation and the Boomers experienced similar health shocks into their mid-30s). Then there’s Adverse, which assumes the current health shock continues relatively unchanged throughout a ten-year forecast. The data states that declining behavioural health may be the reason itself. Is this because of the opioid crisis? Or something larger and more structural, like the stress of student loans, social media or the environment? History tells us that in order to stay out of the Adverse scenario, the underlying issue must either run its course (ex.Vietnam War) or be addressed by a public health response (ex. HIV/AIDS).
Yes, our personal choices affect our health and mortality rates. But reports like these serve as a reminder that sometimes we must look outside of ourselves and realize the outside factors affecting healthcare. Were you aware of this health crisis? Does it change the way you view your patients in any way? I’m interested to see whether my generation gets back to our “Baseline” – we will have to wait and see what picture the history paints.