In the course of the last several years, millennials have shown that they are very different from previous generations in a number of ways. Defined as the generation born from 1981 to 1996, they are the largest, most educated, and most connected generation the world has ever seen.
However, recent data also show the beginnings of troubling generational health patterns that could hamper the future prosperity of millennials, and in turn the prosperity of the U.S. If the current pace of decline in millennial health continues unabated, the long-term consequences to the U.S. economy could be severe.
Millennials now make up the largest share of the U.S. population and labor force, placing them at the heart of U.S. economic growth as consumers, workers, and business owners. How their health plays out in the years ahead will determine not only the overall health of the country, but also its potential economic trajectory. By using Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index data to analyze these questions, Moody’s Analytics was able to take a much broader and forward-looking view of these impacts relative to previous studies.
In the examination of millennial health patterns they have found several interesting and concerning findings, particularly regarding future impacts on healthcare costs and economic activity.
1.Millennials are seeing their health decline faster than the previous generation as they age. This extends to both physical health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, such as major depression and hyperactivity. Without intervention, millennials could feasibly see mortality rates climb up by more than 40% compared to Gen-Xers at the same age.
2.These accelerated declines will result in greater demand for treatment and higher healthcare costs in the years ahead. Under the most adverse scenario, millennial treatment costs are projected to be as much as 33% higher than Gen-Xers experienced at a comparable age.
3.Poorer health among millennials will keep them from contributing as much to the economy as they otherwise would, manifesting itself through higher unemployment and slower income growth. Under the most adverse set of projections, lower levels of health alone could cost millennials more than $4,500 per year in real per-capita income compared to similarly aged Gen-Xers. Such impacts would be most likely concentrated in areas already struggling economically, potentially exacerbating instances of income inequality and contributing to a vicious cycle of even greater prevalence of behavioral and physical health conditions.
These findings should serve as a call to action among policymakers and the healthcare community at large to address declining health among younger Americans before the more severe consequences in this analysis become reality. If nothing is done, the impacts could be game-changing for the U.S. and its economy.
Read more from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Health of America report.