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Why are millennial women so unhealthy?

There are a few reasons.

The millennial generation is a remarkable one. Born between 1981 and 1996 External Site, millennials witnessed the rise of the internet and the digital age. They still went to college even though, for many, it meant shouldering decades of student debt after they graduated. They had to endure two major economic recessions External Site, during which they lost wages and experienced lower earnings overall that have delayed significant milestones like buying a home or having children.

Despite these challenges, they’re now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce — and poised to be 75 percent of it by 2025. So, it should come as no surprise that their health has everyone — particularly their employers — concerned. In 2019, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released a startling look External Site at how unhealthy millennials have truly become.

Though 83 percent of millennials consider themselves to be in good or excellent health, their health begins to decline after age 27 — and millennial women are 20 percent less healthy External Site than their male counterparts, which is specifically driven by cases of major depression, Type 2 diabetes, and endocrine conditions.

What’s going on with millennial women?

In a nutshell: stress. The majority of millennial women are working more hours, while often still being expected to carry the brunt of unpaid labor at home External Site like household responsibilities and child care. With all the time they spend focusing on work and other responsibilities, preventive care like annual check-ups, mental health care, regular exercise, and healthy eating are more likely to get pushed aside. Stress is also a key reason that women of all ages turn to unhealthy eating behaviors, according to the American Psychological Association External Site.

Establishing healthy habits and ensuring regular preventive care is key for millennial women to keep themselves in good health as they get older. However, according to data from The Status of Women in the States External Site:

  • Only about half of millennial women in the U.S. get at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week
  • Only 20 percent report eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  • One in five regularly engage in binge drinking
  • Millennial women report having 4.9 days of poor mental health per month on average
  • 46.5 percent of young women are overweight or obese, which can slowly lead to a decline in physical health

In addition, WebMD® Health Services reports External Site that millennials are the only generation to prioritize emotional and financial well-being over physical well-being. They often skip annual wellness checks External Site because they feel healthy, are too busy, or find scheduling doctor’s appointments to be inconvenient. The BCBSA report on millennial health reports only 68 percent of millennials have a primary care doctor.

A survey from Harmony Healthcare IT External Site reveals that one in four millennials have gone more than five years without an annual physical and 73 percent seek medical advice online instead of seeing the doctor. Millennial women in particular External Site put off preventive care at a higher rate than men, wait longer to get care when they’re sick, and are more likely to self-diagnose and treat health problems at home.

What can their employers do?

If you’ve been reading this article feeling increasingly helpless, don’t worry. With millennial employees engaging with your company for most of the day week after week, you have several opportunities to point them down the right path to better health.

Introduce comprehensive well-being programs

According to the 2020 Employee Well-Being Report from WebMD Health Services External Site, millennials are the most eager of any generation to take advantage of stress-reducing workplace benefits, like meditation classes or groups, gym reimbursements or on-site fitness classes, and more accepting of using paid-time off to take mental health days. Women and millennials are also the most likely to participate in well-being challenges, but with the time constraints that many women face, prefer to have the opportunity to engage with these programs during the workday.

Workplace well-being programs should also cover more than just healthy eating habits, lowering stress, and getting more physical activity. One big opportunity you might be overlooking is helping your employees stay financially fit.

After entering the workforce amidst the Great Recession and being knocked down a few rungs in the economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, millennials often have a hard time making ends meet. Financial stress significantly impacts your employees’ health and well-being, and nearly half of all millennials would like their employer to provide access to a variety of financial wellness tools. Consider offering on-site financial counselors and workshops or introducing benefits like student loan repayment assistance and tuition reimbursement. You can even help them master their finances by getting them set up with a free budgeting app.

Implement flexible schedules

After more than a year of remote work for some, the traditional 9-to-5 may soon become a thing of the past. Before the pandemic, millennials — especially women — were already stretched for time, running from meeting to meeting, eating lunch at their desks, and re-arranging schedules at the drop of a hat, if needed, for childcare emergencies. Offering flexible working hours or a permanent remote work arrangement could help your millennial employees — especially mothers on the hook for childcare and keeping the household running smoothly — manage their work-life balance and reduce their overall stress levels.

Prioritize preventive care

Although they only happen once a year, skipping preventive care visits can be costly for your millennial employees. Even though they may feel fine, these visits can help detect potential medical issues like chronic high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and even cancer — conditions that would likely go unnoticed if they went to a walk-in clinic only when they feel sick. These visits are especially important if your employees already have a pre-existing condition, so their primary care doctor can monitor and manage the condition to keep it from getting worse.

However, convenience is extremely important for millennial women External Site — and scheduling yet another trip across town to the doctor’s office during the middle of the workday is anything but that. Offering on-site health clinics External Site or making virtual doctor visits a standard part of your benefits package can help.

If your employees don’t have time to go to the doctor, they can get virtual preventive care External Site like labs and screenings, weight management, age-appropriate screening recommendations, lifestyle counseling, smoking cessation programs and more from board-certified doctors with Doctor On Demand®. Virtual visits are often available outside of normal on-site clinic hours, making them easier to fit into busy schedules. Doctor On Demand also offers robust treatment options for mental health — from anxiety and depression to trauma and loss, your millennial employees can talk with virtual mental health professionals and get a treatment plan.

We know you won’t take this information lightly

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

Learn more, get connected and receive a complimentary consultation Opens in a new window with one of our employer health and well-being experts. Once you complete the form, you'll receive a copy of our Well-being that Works guide. We are here for you every step of the way, so let our team be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because one-size doesn’t fit all.

Wait, we've got more (and it's free!)

We also published an e-book to help employers like you get ahead of the multiple health crises that are plaguing your millennial employees. When you download your free copy of the Millennials In Your Workplace e-book Opens in a new window

If you’re interested in learning more about how we can support your organization and your employees' health and well-being this year and beyond, you can also contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.