09:30 AM

Millennials, You May Not Be as Healthy as You Think



With a reputation as the healthiest generation, millennials actually face a growing number of mental and physical health challenges. Check out these five myth-busting trends.

As a millennial, you’re supposedly part of our healthiest generation, setting the standards in diet, exercise and self-care.

But you may be wondering: Where did that reputation come from?

That’s because, in reality, millennials like you are dealing with a range of physical and mental health challenges that may be significantly impacting your well-being. Here are five trends shaping millennials’ health – and what can be done to help you create a healthier future.

1. Feeling depressed? You're not alone.

Even before the pandemic raised stress and anxiety for all of us, millennials were experiencing high rates of depression. Here in New Jersey, major depression was having the largest negative impact on millennial health, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) 2019 Health of America Report™.

But then COVID-19 hit, and mental health plunged. Ninety-two percent of millennials say that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to a 2020 BCBSA report. In response:

  • 34 percent are consuming more alcohol
  • 20 percent are smoking more
  • 16 percent are using drugs for non-medical purposes more

2. Your physical health may also be paying a price. 

For millennials, mental and physical health are clearly intertwined. Those with mental health conditions or substance use disorders are twice as likely to be diagnosed with chronic physical conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease, according to the 2020 BCBSA report.

The 2019 Health of America Report™ also found that millennials have higher rates of these physical conditions than Gen-Xers, now ages 41-56, did at the same age. A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll reported that about 44 percent of older millennials ages 33 to 40 have been diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition.

There is a bright point: You’re aware of this connection. Eighty percent of millennials say they believe mental health has an impact on physical health. 

3. If you belong to a community of color, conditions are diagnosed at lower rates, but racial inequities could be the reason.

Compared to millennials in majority white communities, millennials in majority Black and Hispanic communities are diagnosed with mental health conditions and substance use disorders at lower rates.

These differences do not necessarily mean these conditions don’t exist. Instead, underdiagnosis may be due to a range of factors like a lack of understanding of cultural differences, the stigma around diagnosis or treatment, and barriers accessing mental health and substance use care.

4. Don't ignore your health issues.

During the pandemic, millennials have been pushing off medical care, according to a survey of about 2,000 millennials by Harmony Healthcare IT in February 2020. Thirty-four percent of millennials have not had a check-up during the pandemic, including 24 percent with pre-existing conditions. Safety concerns topped the reasons why, followed by the cost and inconvenience of doctor visits.

However, it’s worth noting that these rates were basically the same in 2019, suggesting that millennials might avoid preventive care even without the constraints of a pandemic.

5. You continue to go digital for health advice and care.

You’ve grown up online, and that’s where your health care journey is likely to begin. Nearly 70 percent of millennials search Google for health advice instead of going to a doctor, while 24 percent trust Google to diagnose their symptoms, according to the Harmony Healthcare IT survey. While searching for healthcare information can feel empowering, without the proper medical expertise, millennials could not be receiving the care they need.

When it comes to actual care, 41 percent of millennials would prefer to see their doctor virtually. Using telemedicine is generally seen as more convenient and can lay the potential groundwork for in-person visits if they’re necessary.

What do these trends tell us?

Millennials seem to recognize that they need a path to better health. Indeed, in the 2020 BCBSA report, 68 percent of millennials reported they are willing to actively explore tools to help them live a healthier life.

This is especially true since health conditions tend to appear or worsen as people age. Here are three ways that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is helping the health care system work better for you:

  • Improving access. By expanding available options, we’re helping to meet you where you want to go for care. For example, it’s never been easier or more affordable to access telemedicine, including for mental health and substance use challenges. 

    More than 90 percent of Horizon BCBSNJ’s behavioral health network of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors are seeing members through telemedicine visits. And, right now, there is no co-pay or deductible for telemedicine visits.
  • Supporting "whole-person care." Horizon BCBSNJ members have a range of options for addressing physical and mental health conditions. For example, you can visit a licensed therapist via phone or video chat through the AbleTo program, where you can learn tools and strategies to help manage your stress and anxiety.

    Or, for members with substance use conditions, you can now get medication-assisted treatment – the gold standard to treat opioid misuse – from virtual providers WorkIt Health and Eleanor Health.

    Download this guide to find the right resources for you.
  • Making health insurance simpler. A powerful way for you to take charge of your own health is by first fully understanding your health coverage. Horizon BCBSNJ is making it easier for you to get the most out of your plan – from managing your health on the Horizon Blue app to saving money on cookbooks and fitness clothing. Learn more tips for using Horizon BCBSNJ benefits to build a healthier life.