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July 01, 2019

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Greater Des Moines Partnership have partnered to hold a forum focused on the health of millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — on July 18 in Des Moines. The forum will serve as a listening session centered on the declining health of this generation and will include a closer look at the Blue Cross Blue Shield's Health of America Report: The Health of Millennials External Site.

"The report discusses some disturbing trends for millennials, including the increased prevalence of several significant health conditions and less use of preventive care as compared to Generation X," said Cory Harris, Wellmark's chief operating officer. "This forum will bring together millennials, health care providers, business and community leaders, patient advocates, and health plans to discuss solutions that improve millennials' health, both now and for the rest of their lives."

The information gathered at this invitation-only event will be combined with other listening sessions being held across the country. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will debut the information and proposed initiatives to improve millennial health at a national Health of America conference in November.

A closer look at the alarming trend

According to the report, one-third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy. However, Wellmark's millennial population is healthier than the national average based on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. Iowa's score is 95.1 and South Dakota's score is 95.4, compared with the national average of 93.8 out of 100. These findings are based off a study of millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014.

"Even though Wellmark's millennial members are healthier than the national average, we cannot ignore this national trend," said Laura Jackson, Wellmark's chief health officer. "Millennials are forecasted to represent half of the workforce by 2020. Unfortunately, the multiple health conditions this generation is plagued with could keep them from living their best life possible also impacting productivity levels, absenteeism and health care costs for the businesses that employ them."

A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) survey found that 83 percent of millennials consider themselves in good or excellent health. However, only 68 percent of millennials have a primary care physician, compared to 91 percent of Generation X, which is an important factor in preventive care.

Additional findings from the study are:

  • Millennials had substantially higher diagnoses for eight of the top-10 health conditions than Generation X, and based on their current health status, millennials are more likely to be less healthy when they're older, compared to Gen Xers.
  • The biggest health differences between the two generations was the higher impact of physical conditions driven by increased cardiovascular and endocrine conditions, including diabetes.
  • Millennial women are 20 percent less healthy than their male counterparts, specifically driven by cases of major depression, type II diabetes and endocrine conditions.

There are nearly 73 million millennials in the U.S. right now — the second largest generation among commercially insured Americans. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980.

This is the 26th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, Learn more about the Health of America Report® series External Site.