Wednesday morning, Blue Cross Blue Shield published a 32-page report detailing the myriad ways in which millennials (my cohort!!!) will see their health decline and healthcare costs skyrocket over the next 10 years. The entire thing is a delight to read, and paired very well with my usual morning routine of “staring into my coffee and thinking about how fleeting life is :).”
In the report’s intro, analysts from Moody’s Analytics write that, in examining “millennial health patterns,” they found “several interesting and concerning findings.” Well… Pardon mon Francais, but I’ll freaking say so! Using a combination of data from Blue Cross Blue Shield, the CDC, and prior health studies, the report predicts millennials will achieve the new triple threat of being sicker, broker, and dying younger than the previous generation, Gen X. My fellow millennials have been essentially predicting this very outcome for years, just without all the fancy data, regularly joking that our parents will outlive us. Turns out……we’ve been right the whole time!
The report refers to two potential futures: a “baseline projection,” or what can be expected if we somehow manage to majorly correct the course of things; and a far-scarier “adverse projection,” or what happens if things just continue bumbling along the current path of doom and destruction. According to that adverse projection, millennials can expect at least a 40-percent increase in mortality compared to Gen-Xers at the same age. We (and when I say “we,” I’m referring to my sick peers and myself) can also expect to pay a third more in healthcare costs than the previous generation at the same age, and because of that, make about $4,500 less per year. This all absolutely rips.
The big economic picture looks something like millennials being less able to “contribute” to the “U.S. labor market.” Because we’re expected to be sicker, we’re also expected to be less good at our jobs—because, turns out, sick people aren’t as “productive.”
The real juicy tidbits concern the potential causes of what analysts here have identified as the millennial “health shock,” or a phenomenon they compare to the Vietnam War and the HIV/AIDS crisis. Analysts hypothesize that the major generational difference can be chalked up to rapidly increasing “behavioral health” problems, or things like depression, hyperactivity (meaning anxiety, ADD, and ADHD), and substance abuse. (These also happen to be the source of the most out-of-network spending, according to a study released Wednesday morning.) Between 2014 and 2017, rates of depression and hyperactivity increased 30 percent among millennials. Compared to Gen-X, millennials between ages 30 and 39 are less likely to die from boring old things like heart disease and cancer, but are more likely to die from accidental overdose, suicide, and homicide.
So physically speaking, we’re actually healthier than our predecessors, but statistically, it doesn’t really matter. As we chug our Soylents, spin away on our Pelotons, get 10,000 steps every day, and treat sugar like it’s poison, we still manage to be depressed as hell; are soothing our woes with substances that could (and will) kill us; and have crippling anxiety. To round it all out, analysts write that paying for these behavioral health problems stresses us out even more, which contributes to being less healthy.
As a millennial woman who goes on a jog most mornings; maintains a few no-alcohol nights per week; eats a balanced lunch hunched over at her desk; and currently has an unread email from herself, subject line “therapists,” in her inbox… I know nothing about the issues outlined in this report, personally. But best of luck to the rest of you suckers, and see you in hell!
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