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Millennials 'are seeing their health decline faster' than Gen X, worrying experts

Adriana Belmonte
Associate Editor

The declining health of the millennial generation could have a serious impact on the U.S. health care system, according to experts.

“Millennials are seeing their health decline faster than the previous generation as they age,” a Moody’s Analytics report analyzing Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index data stated. “Without intervention, millennials could feasibly see mortality rates climb up by more than 40% compared to Gen-Xers at the same age.” (Pew Research defines millennials as Americans born between 1981 and 1996.)

These declines will lead to greater demand for treatment, which could have a serious financial impact on the cost of health care.

“Under the most adverse scenario, millennial treatment costs are projected to be as much as 33% higher than Gen-Xers experienced at a comparable age,” the report stated. “Poorer health among millennials will keep them from contributing as much to the economy as they otherwise would, manifesting itself through higher unemployment and slower income growth.”

Millennials are getting sicker. (Photo: BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

‘They don’t feel they’re able to develop a trusting relationship’

Part of this is due to millennials’ lifestyles, according to Mark Talluto, vice president of strategy and analytics for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

“A lot of millennials, they regularly don’t see a set doctor or a set physician,” he told Yahoo Finance. “There are some challenges there. It could be a challenge related to access [or] convenience.”

He continued: “Another challenge is that they don’t feel they’re able to develop a trusting relationship with their provider and that the provider doesn’t know them as an individual with their unique needs. That’s also a barrier to seeking care.” 

By not seeking care, millennials risk their health conditions worsening, which could create a rapid increase in the need for treatment.

The report stated that this “has the potential to tax our already burdened healthcare infrastructure. The U.S. already spends more than 18% of its GDP on healthcare expenditures, the highest in the developed world. These additional cost pressures would be borne not only by consumers and businesses, but by states and the federal government as well, adding to already mounting mandatory spending burdens.”

In 2017, U.S. health care spending grew 3.9%, reaching $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per person, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). That accounted for about 17.9% of the nation’s GDP.

Health care costs continue to rise. (Chart: Moody's Analytics)

The CDC estimates that about 90% of the nation’s annual health care expenditures “are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.”

“The report’s findings reinforce the importance of preventative care, not only for millennials but system-wide as well,” Talluto said. “Many conditions, both physical and behavioral, can be treated more effectively and affordably if brought to a physician’s attention early on.” 

‘Concerning’ findings

As they continue getting sicker, the oldest millennials could see their incomes decline by as much as $4,500 per person by 2027 under the most extreme scenario, according to the report.

Millennials account for the largest share of the U.S. population and the largest share of the U.S. labor market. A sicker workforce means more and more people missing work, or stopping altogether. Based on the Moody’s findings, the labor force participation rate is projected to decline over the next decade.

Labor force participation is projected to continue declining. (Chart: Moody's Analytics)

“Furthermore, even when they are working, health concerns may prevent them from being as productive as they would have been had they had the same health profile as previous generations,” the report said.

“The findings of this report are not only concerning for millennials, but also for employers, providers, and the U.S. economy at large,” Talluto said. “We believe that if we take the steps now to address millennial health and work collectively with the health care community, the trend of declining millennial health can be reversed and the economic impact can be prevented.” 

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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