Insights from the BCBS Health Index show that the major decline in health, on average, begins at age 27 (see Exhibit 1). This report examines the overall health of the millennial generation, which will soon be the largest generation of Americans in the workforce.
Exhibit 1: BCBS Health Index by Age (2017)
Behavioral Health Leads Conditions Impacting Millennials
BCBS Health Index data indicate the top 10 conditions impacting millennials. The prevalence rates for nearly all of the top 10 conditions increased from 2014-2017. 4 When compared to the national population, millennials were more affected by behavioral health conditions (see Appendix A). Major depression, hyperactivity and type II diabetes had the largest growth in prevalence for millennials during that time span (see Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2: Top 10 Conditions Affecting Millennials and Prevalence Increase (Ages 21-36 in 2017)
Millennials Are Less Healthy than Gen X Members were at the Same Age
To understand if millennials are less healthy than previous generations, this report compared like age groups of Gen Xers who were ages 34-36 in 2014 with millennials who were ages 34-36 in 2017 (see Exhibit 3).
Exhibit 3: Prevalence Rate Comparison for Top 10 Conditions between Millennials (Age 34-36) and Gen Xers at the Same Age (Age 34-36 in 2014)
To better understand and compare the health conditions impacting millennials and Gen Xers when they were the same age, four aggregate condition groups were created: behavioral health, cardiovascular, endocrine and other physical conditions. Millennials had 11% more total adverse health across these condition groupings than did Gen Xers when they were the same age. This increase was driven by a 21% increase in cardiovascular conditions and a 15% increase in endocrine conditions, including diabetes. Behavioral health conditions explain about 40% of adverse health for both millennials and Gen Xers (see Exhibit 4).
Exhibit 4: Adverse Health Impact for Major Condition Categories (2017)
Older Millennials in Southern States Are Less Healthy
Older millennials ages 34-36 living in western states tend to be healthier and have a higher BCBS Health Index, while those living in the northeast and portions of the southern states have a lower BCBS Health Index (see Exhibit 5). For a national view of the BCBS Health Index for millennials ages 21-36 in 2017, see Appendix C.
Exhibit 5: BCBS Health Index for Millennials (Ages 34-36) by State (2017)
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BCBS Health Index data underscores the urgency for the healthcare community to recognize that millennial Americans are experiencing double-digit increases in prevelance for eight of the top 10 health conditions. Additionally, millennials had significantly higher prevalence rates than did their Gen X counterparts at the same age. The health status of millennials will likely have substantial effects on the American economy over the next two decades—including workplace productivity and healthcare costs. BCBS is partnering with Moody’s Analytics to forecast how the health of millennials will impact the future economy, with results highlighted in an upcoming BCBS Health of America report.
With a focus on engaging millennials, identifying key drivers and enacting innovative solutions, BCBS companies are launching Millennial Health Listening Sessions across the country, a series of workshops to learn from leading healthcare experts, employers, digital leaders and millennials on how the healthcare system can help create a path toward better health for this generation. The insights in this report on the health of American millennials can serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Americans.