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Need to know: How millennial health is impacting your workplace

When it comes to millennials in the workplace, many of us have a number of preconceived notions about this generation: lazy, job hoppers, or even entitlement. It's no secret the millennial generation has a bad rap, but each of these assumptions can easily be debunked External Site, or applied to a number of other generations.

"Millennials are forecasted to represent half of the workplace by 2020. Unfortunately, the multiple health conditions this generation is plagued with could keep millennials from living their best life possible, while also impacting productivity levels, absenteeism, and health care costs for the businesses that employ them." — Laura Jackson, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's chief health officer.

One assumption that likely doesn't come to mind about millennials? Unhealthy. But, the data tells us otherwise.

Based on a recent Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® (BCBS) Health of America Report® External Site, the health of millennials is a serious issue. In fact, once a millennial hits age 27, they see a decline in their health. Millennials 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.

This news may come as a surprise — especially because millennials are focused on healthy living External Site more than any other generation. Just open any social media site to see healthy lifestyle influencers sharing clean-eating recipes, workout tips, and more.

Mental health issues impact millennials at a higher rate

But it's important to remember that your employees' health is far more than the healthy diets and exercise habits. According to the report, 6 of the top 10 conditions affecting millennials are behavioral conditions impacting mental and emotional well-being. And, nearly eight conditions saw a double-digit increase — notably in tobacco use.

Here's where the problem worsens: Millennials are more likely to access medical advice online or read blogs on health-related matters, rather than consult with their primary care provider (PCP). It's no surprise only 68 percent of millennials have a PCP — compared to 91 percent of Generation X — which is key to preventive care.

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A closer look at the health of millenials

Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996 and will soon represent the largest generation of Americans in the workforce. Their health status will likely have substantial effects on the American economy over the next two decades - including workplace productivity and health care costs.

When asked about their health:

  • 83 percent of millennials consider themselves in good or excellent health*
  • 63 percent of millennials have a primary care physician (PCP)*
  • Source: AmeriSpeak survey conducted in 2018 by NORC at the University of Chicago using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household populations.
  • 27: The age data shows millennials to begin to decline in health
  • 1 out of 3 millennials have health conditions that affect their quality of life

Top-10 conditions affecting millennials in 2017 (followed by percentage increase in prevalence from 2014-2017):

  1. Major depression: increased 31 percent
  2. Substance abuse disorder: increased 10 percent
  3. Alcohol abuse disorder: increased 1 percent
  4. Hypertension: increased 16 percent
  5. Hyperactivity: increased 29 percent
  6. Psychotic disorder: increased 15 percent
  7. Chron's disease/ulcerative colitis: increased 10 percent
  8. High cholesterol: increased 12 percent
  9. Tabacco use disorder: increased 7 percent

Double-digit increases for 8 of the top-10 conditions

Millennials are less healthy than Generation Xers were at the same age

Major depression, hyperactivity, and diabetes II had the largest growth in prevalence

Total adverse health for millennial women is 20 percent greater than for men, mainly driven by: major depression, type II diabetes and other endocrine conditions*

*Other endocrine conditions include parathyroid, ovary, adrenal, pituitary and other endocrine system-related conditions. Examples include PCOS, parathyroid disorders, hypoglycemia, vitamin or mineral deficiencies and many others.

With the potential to be the largest segment of your workforce, the health of millennials may directly impact the health of your organization. That's why now is the time to start the conversation about this generation.

Peer into the health of millennials in Iowa and South Dakota

While these numbers raise alarm for workplaces throughout the country, if we take a closer look at the data, the millennial populations in Iowa and South Dakota are healthier than the national average.

Iowa millennial population

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Iowa health index score: 95.1 (within national average)

Counties to watch: Cerro Gordo, Wright, Fremont, Jefferson

Top-3 conditions affecting Iowa millennials:

  1. Major depression makes up 25.3 percent of the adverse health of Iowa millennials
  2. Alcohol use disorder makes up 7.5 percent of the adverse health of Iowa millennials
  3. Hypertension makes up 6.1 percent of the adverse health of Iowa millennials

South Dakota millennial population

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South Dakota health index score: 95.4 (within national avg.)

Counties to watch: Fall river

Top-3 conditions affecting South Dakota millennials:

  1. Major depression makes up 22.3 percent of the adverse health of South Dakota millennials
  2. Alcohol use disorder makes up 7.9 percent of the adverse health of South Dakota millennials
  3. Hypertension makes up 4.6 percent of the adverse health of South Dakota millennials

Though these local numbers may cause a sigh of relief for workplaces across Iowa and South Dakota, it doesn't mean we can avoid the conversation about millennial health.

Why millennial health is important to your business

As millennials become a more prominent population within the workforce, it's important for your workplace to start determining ways to avoid decreased productivity and increased health care costs. For the sake of your company's bottom line, and the health of your employees, start finding ways you can incorporate the six elements of well-being into your workplace.

At Wellmark, we know your business, and have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in-house. Our team of employer well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique, ever-changing needs of your organization.

How can I stay in the know about millennial health?

Stay up to speed by reading or downloading the Health of America Report on The Health of Millennials External Site by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). You can also find more data and content right here to provide you with the information, tools and resources needed to keep your millennial employee population happy, healthy and engaged for years to come.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at blueatwork@wellmark.com Send Email.