Virtually Healthy: 5 Reasons Why Millennials Aren't As Well As They Think

Millennials, the first generation expected to be less prosperous than their parents, may also be less healthy.

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By Andrea J. Miller • Nov 11, 2018 Originally published Nov 11, 2018

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Believe it or not, millennials are getting older (and sadly, so are the rest of us). With age comes the end of invincibility and the beginning of the early signs of health issues to come. Though more actively engaged in their overall wellness than previous generations, the millennial view of healthcare is, not surprisingly, different (bet you saw that one coming).

Being the largest living generation 73 million and the predominant demographic in the workforce means that their behavior and view of health and wellness is driving some fundamental changes in healthcare, while impacting your company's bottom line. Understanding how they use healthcare, or why they don't, matters to your business. According to recent reports, millennials are on track to have worse health than their parents as they age. This means as they age they will face more incapacitating, sometimes life-threatening and invariably costly illnesses, potentially taking them out of the workforce for extended periods, if not permanently.

These chilling findings are surprising in this seemingly wellness conscious generation. However, though focused on being healthy, their number of actual doctor visits remains relatively low. A recent millennial marketing report found that half of the millennials surveyed visited a doctor less than once per year. Nearly all -- 93 percent -- said they don't schedule preventative care visits, while 42 percent are willing to cancel a check-up that conflicts with other priorities.

This pattern of infrequent check-ups and office visits is often driven by cost, as well as a desire for convenience and a general belief that they are healthy. Twenty percent of the millennials surveyed reported being unable to afford routine health care expenses and 47 percent said that they had to cut corners on health care because of the cost.

Related: 4 Alternatives to Offering Paid Healthcare Benefits

The less healthy side of wellness.

By now you might be asking, "if millennials are so health conscious and generally healthy, why is this even a problem?"

The truth is that all the happy posts and selfies on social media are only half the story. In an American Psychological report three-quarters of Generation Y said that money is a "somewhat" or "very significant" source of stress and another three-quarters reported that work was a significant stressor.

Other forms of stress included the persistent use of technology. The potential negative impact on the physical and mental health of technology has been well-documented and was unsurprisingly found to be even greater among this group that is often described as attached to their devices, constantly checking email, social media, and/or texts. In a 2017 report on stress, the APA noted that 63 percent of millennials say they're attached to their phone or tablet. They also reported higher stress rates in direct association with this use of technology.

Paradoxically, 44 percent of constant checkers reported feeling isolated because of their technology use. Loneliness can harm health in multiple ways. The quality and quantity of individuals' social relationships have been linked to both mental and physical health, which can increase absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace at an estimated cost to employers of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Googling and connecting for better health can be effective for certain conditions and general wellness. However, like most aspects in life, the trick is knowing when you need to take it "off-line." Over the last few years, several disturbing health trends have surfaced related to millennials, which may be directly impacted by their choice not to seek in-person medical care.

Related: Why Reducing Employee Healthcare Isn't Saving You Money

1. Mental health

Millennials report depression in higher numbers than other generations in the workforce. according to research from employee assistance program provider Bensinger, Dupont & Associates some 70 percent of the millennials surveyed noted that depression undermined their ability to function at full capacity at work.

2. Binge drinking

According to a recent CDC report, one in six US adults binge drinks and adults aged 18–34 years were largest sub-group among them. They also found that excessive drinking came at a high cost with a loss in workplace productivity, increased health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses.

Related: I Quit Drinking: 7 Ways It Changed My Life and Business

3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

New data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that young people are choosing riskier sex and paying a price with some of the highest rates of STDs. If left undiagnosed and untreated, they are at risk for severe and often irreversible health consequences.

4. Colon and rectal cancers

Millennials are two and four times more likely to develop colon and rectal cancers than Boomers according to new research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. While the overall numbers are small, Gen Y's reluctance to go to the doctor could lead to the overall rate to rise as they get older.

5. Stroke

Yes, you read correctly, in a study published in the JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that rates of hospitalizations for acute ischemic stroke increased by nearly 42 percent for men 35 to 44, and by 30 percent for women of the same age group increased by 30 percent over the same time.

Prescription

Many of the latest digital health products and trends are amazing. On the surface, they save time and money. Seriously, you don't even have to interrupt the workday or even leave your desk to speak with your doctor…if you have one.

That said, with the growing body of evidence and disturbing statistics, there's potentially a much a greater impact to your work and more importantly your life when you continually forgo preventive care. So, maybe its time to pick up the phone and make that appointment. Because even the healthiest person periodically needs to see a doctor - trust me, you're worth the investment.

Andrea J. Miller

CEO of Chief of Wellbeing and the Digital Patient

Andrea Miller is the CEO of the LeadWell Company and The Digital Patient. Miller is an international wellbeing and healthcare coach, strategist, consultant and speaker. She’s worked with Siemens Healthineers, the CDC, the WHO and other leaders in healthcare. She brings to her work a unique combination of professional and personal experience at LeadWellCompany.com.

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