Smart health trackers, boutique fitness classes, organic food delivery and allergy testing. You’d imagine these wellness trends are tipping millennials towards a healthier lifestyle. Yet even though they seem to be more invested in their health and wellness, they may be considerably less healthy than expected.
Data reveals that millennials have higher prevalence rates for medical conditions, including Crohn’s and colitis, when compared to previous generations.
Almost 73 million people in the U.S. are millennials – people born between 1981 and 1996. According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), 83% of those millennials consider themselves to be in good or excellent health, yet data reveals that older millennials have higher prevalence rates for nearly all the top 10 conditions that the Generation X members had at the same age.
Top 10 health conditions affecting millennials
Millennials (34 to 36 years old in 2017) were shown to be 11 percent less healthy than Gen Xers (34 to 36 years old in 2014). In fact, millennials had a double digit increase in diagnoses for eight of the 10 top health conditions.
The following were ranked by detrimental health impact: depression, substance use, alcohol use disorder, hypertension, hyperactivity, psychotic conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, tobacco use disorder, type 2 diabetes.
Behavioral health conditions had the largest growth in prevalence:
-Major depression increased by 31%
-Hyperactivity increased by 29%
-Type II diabetes increased by 22%
Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis cases increased by 10% in millennials, when compared to Gen Xers.
Why the health hit?
It’s important to examine diet and lifestyle changes and whether they may be contributing causes for this health decline.
-Technological advances: because of technology, it may be more difficult to have an awareness of emotions within themselves or others.
-Media overload: constant exposure to the media, including news reports on war, terrorism, natural diseaer, and catastrophes.
-The “everyone wins” mentality: millennials are exposed to the mentality that everyone wins or everyone gets an award. This may make it difficult to tolerate stressful and overwhelming events.
-Two-income households: previous generations had more predictable work and dinner times which created a more consistent and predictable world for millennials. The financial demands make it so many parents are away from home more often.
-Undefined work schedules: many jobs give the option for flexible schedules and allow for remote work. This may seep into weekends and vacation time.
Food is undeniably a factor contributing to mental and physical health. Step into any supermarket and it’s no surprise that food processing has increased over the years. Processing food depletes nutrients. Overexposure to genetically modified foods may increase the risk for food allergies or sensitivities.
CNN Health broke some bad news to bread lovers. They covered a study published in the journal of JAMA that suggested eating more than normal levels of gluten during the first five years of life can increase the likelihood of developing celiac disease.
Researchers studied more than 6,600 newborns in the US, Finland, Germany and Sweden, born between 2004 and 2010. All children had a gene associated with Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.
Researchers recorded the children’s gluten intake every few months, until the age of 5 years old. Over the course of the study, 1,216 children (20%) developed celiac disease autoimmunity (the first sign of the body’s response). Another 450 participants (7%) developed celiac disease.
Greater amounts of gluten was associated with 6.1% increased risk of celiac disease autoimmunity and a 7.2% increased risk of celiac disease — per additional gram of gluten.
Some IBD and IBS cases have been linked to a gluten allergy or intolerance.
How millennials can help themselves
One of the best things millennials, or anyone struggling from health concerns, can do is to take action towards preventative care. The BCBSA survey found that only one-third of millennials have a primary care provider and most do not receive regular care.
When it comes to IBD, inability to effectively receive and provide communication with healthcare providers is a major patient struggle. One third of people living with Crohn’s or Colitis don’t have support of an IBD specialist.
Millennials should take proactive action to work with their primary physician, particularly if they’re struggling from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Find the support in between physician visits with a preventative coach like NoriHealth.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.