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The generational impact of COVID-19

How are your employees coping during the pandemic?

Millennials with a behavioral health condition are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a chronic physical condition such as hypertension, type II diabetes and coronary artery disease. Read more about how 92 percent of millennials believe COVID-19 has impacted their mental health by downloading the Supporting the behavioral health of your millennial employees External Site mini whitepaper by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Experts aren’t sure what the long-term consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will be. But it’s pretty clear the current upheaval will have a lasting impact on every generation.

You can support your employees by helping them tackle the various challenges posed by coronavirus. Here are some of the issues your workforce may be going through, and how you can help.

Baby boomers (born 1946 –1964, ages 56 – 74)

Baby boomers are more at risk for health concerns related to coronavirus. However, a recent survey External Site shows boomers are less likely to worry about getting the virus than younger age groups. Boomers have less financial issues related to COVID-19 than other generations, since they are retired or closer to retirement.


While COVID-19 can infect anyone, the risk of severe illness increases with age External Site. People in their 60s and 70s are at higher risk of being hospitalized or requiring intensive care. According to the CDC External Site, 80 percent of COVID deaths are among boomers. And while age is a factor, so are underlying health conditions. More than 60 percent External Site of boomers have already been diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer). This makes them even more at risk External Site for a severe illness.


Because they are retired or getting closer to retirement, many older adults are less concerned about their finances than younger generations. Due to the pandemic, though, they may have less time to meet their financial goals. While some boomers are taking early retirement due to health concerns, others want to spend more time with family.

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  • Only 16 percent External Site of boomers report COVID-19 has had an extreme or very negative impact on their financial security.
  • Most boomers (38 percent) have not curbed their spending External Site due to the pandemic.
  • Baby boomers tend to have lower rent and mortgage payments, and more than half External Site own their own homes.
  • People over age 65 have safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare, which have not been impacted by the pandemic.

How you can help.

Baby boomers are less likely to work from home External Site than other generations. But because they are at increased risk of complications from coronavirus, the CDC recommends that people in this age group take precautions by staying home as much as possible.

You can help these workers manage the transition to remote work by communicating regularly, providing resources for them to create a comfortable and functional workplace, and helping them combat social isolation Opens in a new window. If workers need to be on-site, make it easier for them to take proper precautions External Site. For example, have face masks available, arrange work space and schedules that allow for proper social distancing, encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and help them know how to get tested.

Generation X (born 1965– 1980, ages 40– 55)

Also known as the “sandwich generation External Site,” Gen X’ers have officially hit midlife. For many, this means caring for their own families in addition to their aging parents. Gen X'ers are perhaps the most prepared to cope with the isolation of social distancing External Site and quarantine External Site. They are naturally risk adverse, having been raised as latchkey kids External Site in the age of stranger danger. Plus they have added motivation to stay home and serve as role models for their parents and their children.


While boomers face the greatest risk from coronavirus, this doesn’t mean that Gen X’ers have no reason to worry. Their age increases the risk of health complications. But Gen X'ers want to be healthy for the people who rely on them, such as kids who need their guidance for virtual learning, and aging parents who rely on them for support. In fact, 54 percent External Site of Gen X’ers report deep concern about contracting the coronavirus, the highest of any generation.


Many Gen X’ers are thinking more seriously about their retirement savings, as well as saving for children’s college tuition, all while paying the bills every month. These responsibilities force them to take the virus seriously. However, 18 percent of Gen X’ers have lost their jobs External Site due to COVID-19. This contributes to anxiety as they face an uncertain future. Others are working remotely and enjoying increased flexibility in the work and home lives.

How you can help.

Working remotely could provide Gen X’ers a chance to showcase their ability to keep your business running during a time of crisis, like COVID-19. As more workers want to work remotely, and more companies are making the switch to flexible work environments, the business case for implementing a remote work policy — if you’re able — is no-brainer. Consider these tips for transitioning to a remote workforce.

Millennials (born 1981–1996, ages 24 – 39)

Even before the pandemic, millennials were often referred to as "the unluckiest generation" External Site. They were coming of age when the 2008 recession hit. Now, at a pivotal time in their lives, while their careers are progressing and they are building their lives, millennials face yet another setback. The impact of COVID-19 has hit them financially, yes. But millennials are also more apt to miss social interaction, and likely to be continuing their education or reaching major life milestones, such as marriage and children. Due to all these factors, millennials are perhaps the most impacted by the COVID-19.


Before the pandemic, millennial health was already on the decline. The Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® (BCBS) Health of America Report® External Site, revealed the health of millennials to be a serious issue. In fact, once a millennial hits age 27, they begin to see a higher prevalence of physical disorders driven by cardiovascular and endocrine conditions (e.g., diabetes), making them unhealthier than their Generation X counterparts. To make matters worse, 52 percent of millennials External Site have put off medical care during COVID-19 because of cost.According to the report, 6 of the top 10 conditions affecting millennials are behavioral conditions impacting mental and emotional well-being. No doubt, the loneliness and anxiety External Site of quarantine life are not helping.


Millennials are in an especially tough spot due to the pandemic. They had already hit the job market at a disadvantage, and overall, have considerably less wealthy External Site than previous generations at the same life stages. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has only made the problem worse:

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  • More than half of millennials say they have experienced financial insecurity External Sitedue to COVID-19.
  • Millennials who work from home are facing rising expenses External Site due to COVID-19, paying, on average, $208 more per month more for groceries and the cost of living.
  • One poll External Site found more than half of Americans under the age of 45 have either lost their job, been put on leave, or had their hours cut as a result of the pandemic, compared to 26 percent of people over the age of 45.
  • To make matters worse for millennials, those who are working from home feel less connected to their employers, External Site and more job-related stress compared to other generations.

How you can help.

Here are a couple ways you can support your millennial employees:

  1. Offer the emotional support they need. Some of your employees may be experiencing emotional trauma from depression Opens in a new window, anxiety Opens in a new window, social isolation and financial loss. Learn how to be an ally for these employees by pointing them to resources and providing learning and development opportunities.
  2. For those who want to return to work or are struggling to work from home, provide a plan to safely return to work.

Generation Z (born after 1996, age 18 to 23)

Can you think of a worse time to enter the job market? That’s exactly the situation Gen Z’ers find themselves navigating. Just as they were getting started, interviews were cancelled or conducted virtually. They face lower pay, reduced hours, and loads of uncertainty. The pandemic is a defining moment for this generation, and impacting every aspect of the Gen Z life, from social life to future education and career plans.


Like millennials, Gen Z’ers are worried about contracting the virus External Site and even more concerned about spreading it to loved ones. Gen Z’ers are young and less likely to be hospitalized External Site with COVID-19 complications. According to the CDC External Site, patients between 18 and 29 years old represent less than 0.5 percent of deaths in the U.S. but about 23 percent of total cases. Uncertain times create other problems, including anxiety. Pre-pandemic, Gen Z was already the most anxious generation External Site. The pandemic only amplified this issue.


While the pandemic is more of a health concern for older generations, Gen Z’ers, like millennials, are feeling the impact of the economic downturn. Pre-pandemic, Gen Z’ers were considered a practical and frugal generation External Site, driving thrift store sales and avoiding debt. Time will tell if and how these plans change. One development for Gen Z'ers due to the pandemic is that they have more likely to have moved External Site than any of the other age groups. And, according to Pew Research Center, 52 percent of young adults (ages 18- to 29- years-old) in the U.S. now live with their parents External Site. This surpasses the previous record held during the Great Depression.

How you can help.

For Gen Z’ers, consider how you can rebuild your workplace as a younger generation enters the workforce. A big part of this, for Gen Z and other generations, is by ending the stigma of mental health in the workplace. Nearly three-quarters of workers want their employer to champion mental health External Site and well-being. Need a good place to start? Here, find five ways your workplace can address mental health.

Direct your employees to Doctor On Demand®. A virtual visit service allows your employees to connect with licensed therapists to cope with depression, relationship issues, workplace stress, trauma and loss, social anxiety or addictions — all from their mobile device. Get the Mental Health and Virtual Visits flyer (M-2020299) on the Wellmark Marketing Toolkit Secure Site to download and share with your employees.

88 percent of Americans External Site over 40 would consider using telehealth or virtual visits for themselves or a loved one - just as likely as younger generations.

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Find more information about COVID-19 and the workplace.

Interested in learning more about how Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield can help you improve your employee's well-being? Talk to your Wellmark account representative to learn more about programs that are designed around your company and its needs, or email us at Send Email.