Benefits

Health Care and the Aging Millennial

By Rita Pyrillis

Jul. 17, 2019

Millennials are the driving force behind the booming wellness industry, embracing trends from meditation and holistic medicine to the latest tech gadgets and gear. Yet a growing number are facing middle age with more health problems than previous generations, according to recent studies.

In particular, older millennials — those between the ages of 34 and 36 — are seeing dramatic increases in the diagnoses of depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperactivity, among other conditions, according to a new study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. A third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy, making them more likely than Generation X to be sicker when they’re older, the study showed.

The findings do not surprise Rachel Druckenmiller, 34, a wellness industry leader whose fast-track career nearly came to a halt when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2017. She is a 2019 Workforce Game Changer and director of well-being at the Alera Group, a national insurance and financial services firm.

“In September, 2016, I had a dream that I was drowning,” recalled Druckenmiller, who was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr. “After that I started having trouble with my memory. My doctor said I was doing too much. A few months later I ended up with swollen lymph nodes and I lost my voice. I literally burned out.”

She blames the lack of meaningful social connection for many of the health problems facing her generation.

Of the top 10 health conditions effecting younger workers, more than half are psychological, with depression rates increasing 31 percent between 2014 and 2017, according to the Blue Cross study.

“There’s a perception that millennials are healthier because we’re into sustainability, yoga and cross-fit, but we’re also labeled the ‘anxious’ generation,” Druckenmiller said. “Chronic diseases start with psychological dysfunction.”

She urges employers to check in with their younger workers frequently and get to know what motivates and inspires them.

“They should ask them questions like, ‘What is the most important thing in your life outside of work? Are you able to use your strengths at work?’ People need to be heard.”

Also watch: Rutgers Assistant Professor Joni Dolce on Workplace Mental Health

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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