Millennials are defined to be the ones who are born between the years 1982 and 2000. Basically, these are the people who are either graduating from college between the years 2002 and 2015 and are apparently in their working years now. They are also known as baby boomers. The largest of the population in their working years fall under this category.
Being a millennial does not always mean you are susceptible to diseases while people of other ages are impervious to them. But it surely means that the different circumstances of your life and upbringing might have an impact on your physical and mental health.
Things that people didn’t experience being born before the 80s and 90s, growing up as millennials have actually become defining issues for the wellbeing of this generation. Conditions like continual blue light exposure, constant access to information, school and work that takes place solely at computer screens create unique circumstances for the health of the present generation or millennials.
According to new research from the by BCBSA, it is found that millennials may be substantially less healthy as they age. When we compare millennials to the national population, basically they are more affected by behavioural health conditions than physical. This is one of the reasons why the highest increases are witnessed in rates of major depression and hyperactivity.
Although millennials seem to have put forth greater investment in health and wellness than generations before them still many findings suggest that millennials will be substantially less healthy as they age.
The various reports suggest that the following top 6 conditions affect millennials the most and adversely impact their health:
- Major Depression
- Substance Use Disorder
- Alcohol Use Disorder
- Psychotic conditions
While these top six conditions affecting millennials are not necessarily surprising, what actually is shocking is the prevalence rates for each of these conditions in millennials when compared to rates for previous generations.
Just because of significant health challenges are on the rise among millennials earlier than in previous generations, we must address these issues now.
Millennials are mostly affected by mental health conditions
Millennials are quite often considered an anxious generation or breed which is usually attributed to an obsession with technology, controlling parents and the stress that comes with trying to fit into a social media-driven world. But, according to experts, the anxiety and often depression experienced by a young adult is because of uncertainty.
While we may have come across moderate diagnosis impact across all generations for previously stigmatized behavioural health conditions, millennials are seeing higher growth in prevalence than either generations or baby boomers. For instance, major depression, substance abuse disorder, and alcohol use disorder were the top three conditions for millennials.
Millennials and Hyperactivity
Hyperactivity is basically defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as when “A person is believed to or seems to move about constantly, including all those situations in which it is not considered appropriate, or in case of excessive fidgets, taps or talks.” Generally, it occurs in combination with inattention and impulsivity which is caused by attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder.
Nevertheless, some people with Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder only may struggle with either attention-deficit or hyperactivity/ impulsivity.
In case these behaviours are affecting your ability to function at work and at home, you should definitely talk to your doctor about getting evaluated. On the other hand medication, psychotherapy, education or training have been known to reduce symptoms.
Researchers believe the following circumstances in which millennials grew up are contributing factors:
Due to technology advancement, millennials turned out to be the first generation to grow up with extremely low social interactions in person when compared to the previous generations. This also made them limited to understanding behavioural language that is mostly non-verbal. Understanding expressions and gestures become hard for millennials.
This lack of emotional awareness is clinically termed as alexithymia which makes it hard for millennials to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.
Everyone Wins Mentally
Researchers have found that millennials usually refrain from learning the aspects of winning and losing. They do not work on their failures and always seclude themselves in a bubble and act on their brains’ pause and reset buttons. They believe that there is winning in everything and this results in difficulty to understand failure and resilience.
This “Everyone is rewarded” or “there are no strikeouts” attitude, builds up into an aggressive and frustrating nature when big failures happen in their life. Their coping skills are thus affected and they are mentally impacted with conditions.
Due to the changes in socio-economic aspects globally, and with the effect of global culture, the past few decades have encouraged women to work on par with men. But in this advent, people are so engrossed in their work schedule that they sometimes miss out on the small things these millennials needed as they grew up.
Not having the ease that our previous generation had, for instance, family dinner time and predictable work and weekend hours, actually created a more solitary world for millennials. Thus, wrapping them in the bubble of avoidance and isolation even more.
No defined work schedules
Unlike the previous generation, many older millennials have the opportunity to work in careers that don’t have a set schedule and allow for more remote access. The downside of this opportunity is that they find themselves working on weekends and during vacations. Thus they actually never really have “away time” to decompress or refuel. All of these instances together heighten physical and emotional risk factors.
Many studies suggest that mental illness and substance use disorders start in adolescence and generally affect younger people more.
Overloaded with Media
Now world news is so accessible to us that it is similar to the media explosion of the internet created a 24-hour news cycle. This allowed millennial kids to access fearful news.
News stories of terrorism, natural disasters, or catastrophes that were non-existent generations ago, are now available around the clock. Maybe these feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear regarding these events entered into the world of millennials either by witnessing such stories themselves or through the contagious fear reactions from adults in their family circle.
Also, millennials these days have a host of stress can feel more isolated and are exposed to a range of new addicting devices as well.
Ways millennials can help themselves
The best thing millennials can do for their mental health is to seek out preventive care so they can take in proper diagnosis and treatment before a condition becomes unmanageable or life-threatening.
Nevertheless, the BCBSA survey found that nearly one-third of millennials don’t have a primary health care provider and mostly they don’t have access to regular preventive care. In addition to this, most millennials only visit a doctor when they are sick or something is broken.
This way millennials not only affect their immediate health but also their long-term health by not seeking preventative care. Millennials should be encouraged to find and regularly consult primary care provider if they are not doing it already. Nobody knows when they may need care and many conditions can be treated more efficiently and that too at a more affordable price, if it is brought to a physician’s attention early.
The biggest excuse millennials give is that they can’t afford to pay for psychotherapy. They are in the belief that they don’t command the kind of salaries that people generations ago earned. This, in turn, motivates millennials to more than loyalty. Often it is expressed that millennials don’t cultivate relationships with health professionals, which would lead to more streamlined care and consistent well-being.
Millennials should be encouraged to practice self-care
Self-care is something a learned behaviour. It isn’t something that automatically occurs. They should concentrate on self-care skills like mindfulness, good eating, healthy sleep, and exercise into their lives not for the short run but as a long-term commitment.
Simply unplugging from technology, work, media and replacing those with meaningful face-to-face time with others are some other forms of self-care.
Millennials should reduce their stigma around mental illness by prioritizing their mental health, should speak about their struggles and if needed get help while they feel unwell or stressed.
Literally, nobody is immune to mental illness and substance use disorders. They should be well aware and should learn the signs and symptoms of these disorders in themselves and their peers.
How Healthcare can help Millennials?
Recently, to gain a better understanding of the decline in millennials’ health across all illness, BCBSA held sessions with companies across the country.
And it was quite evident for the attendees to conclude that the current health system doesn’t appear to be working for millennials who at the end of the story want care that is welcoming, convenient, and integrated.
Following are some of the ways how to address current millennial lifestyles better:
- Millennials basically want to be met where they are with access to their own health records and convenient care that includes telemedicine. They simply don’t want another app to download.
- Moreover, millennials are disproportionately affected by behavioural health conditions and they prefer a holistic approach to their health that integrates both mind and body.
- Millennials find themselves much more comfortable in a friendly environment which helps them to trust and understand their culture, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual and gender identity.
- Thereby, millennials would rather work in environments where they are able to address behavioural health and its underlying issues without stigma.
When it comes to depression, nearly 89 per cent of adults don’t consider depression a very serious or somewhat serious condition and the majority believe that not enough resources are being allocated to depression.
According to the latest research, a troubling trend have been identified that 1 in 5 millennials are diagnosed with major depression and not seeking any form of treatment. These major depression conditions can actually rob people of 9 or more years of a healthy life.
So, it’s quite important to allocate research and resources to new treatments as more millennials are diagnosed with this and other behavioural health conditions.
Also, the percentage of millennials who do seek out psychotherapy for mental health conditions they use the treatment differently than previous generations.
Millennials usually come for the quick fix and they aren’t really interested in the long haul of getting to the root of issues. New age mental health therapists need to be aware of this trend and try to explain millennials understand that they will spend less time in psychotherapy and more time in living a meaningful life. This can only happen when they put in long hours on the couch to speak.
Need for better screening methods
Screening of all patients, especially younger individuals for mental illness and substance use disorders at all treatment encounters is must. We are supposed to prioritize creating more treatments and access to these treatments.
Millennials and Anxiety
It’s critical not to talk about millennial health trends without mentioning the realities of mental illness within the generation. It’s definitely something more than just losing work-life balance and experiencing Instagram FOMO. When you have the world at your fingertips that also means a very visceral reaction to the tragedy. Beginning from 9/11 massacre to school shootings, millennials do not see their world from the same perspective as their parents. They probably live with the reality of violence versus the threat of it.
Fortunately, the anxious generation is fighting back. No doubt, stigma is still a problem and for young millennials, it may be the stigma that stems from parents regarding mental health. Often, the downplaying attitude by parents and society that millennials are complainers, lazy, weak is one of the biggest mistakes and disservices we can do for this generation.
What can actually work best in this scenario is making mental healthcare affordable and accessible to all, and engaging in conversations that show emotional challenges are a common part of life.
While access to information technology literally, might be the thing that defines millennials whereby it overwhelmingly affects millennial health. Contrary to this, it is also what makes the generation so strong. Researchers and mental health professionals agree that this generation is quite open and honest about their health. They preferably express what matters to them in a way that generations before have not been. Also, by being upfront with your doctor or mental health information, you are looking after your health is the best possible.