Health News Digest

Millennial health COVID-19

March 29, 2021

Millennials, Healthcare, And The COVID-19 Pandemic

By Michael D. Shaw

In this piece, we apply a little demographics and psychographics to healthcare, with an eye on how this may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The term “Millennial” was first used by sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss, and are the cohort born between 1980-1995, with some expanding this to 1980-2000. They are now the largest living generation. There also seem to be more clichés about this generation than any other.

A common complaint mocks millennials for growing up in the “participation trophy” era. However, as they rightly point out, it was their parents that created that ridiculous paradigm, not them. By the same token, many Baby Boomers were “raised” in front of a TV set, arranged for them by their Greatest Generation parents.

In a 2013 survey called “What’s your Healthy?” commissioned by Aetna, and publicized by many others, including Goldman Sachs, generational differences were discussed. To wit…

Almost twice as many Baby Boomers define being healthy as getting recommended screenings or checkups, compared to Millennials. A much higher percentage of Millennials define being healthy as having good eating habits and regular physical activity, compared with the older generations. Thus, for Millennials, “healthy” doesn’t just mean “not sick.” And in this context, “proactive” goes far beyond showing up for medical appointments.

In June 2019, Harmony Healthcare IT surveyed 2,103 millennials on a variety of healthcare topics. Among the findings…

  • 45% have been putting off a health issue or issues.
  • 76% have a primary care physician, with 30% (the largest component) doing this via an insurance portal.
  • 48% said they would prefer to see a doctor virtually rather than in-person.
  • 48% said they trust online resources to accurately diagnose symptoms.
  • 78% said they seek medical advice online rather than going to a doctor.
  • 24% have not had a physical exam in five years or more, mostly because they either feel healthy, are too busy, or find it too inconvenient to do so.
  • 65% do not set anything aside for medical emergencies.
  • 57% said they prefer a high-deductible insurance plan with a lower premium to keep down monthly costs.

But then, a lot has happened since 2019, and a lot of THAT has been COVID-19. So, Harmony Healthcare IT ran another survey. In this work, from February 8- 23, 2021, they surveyed 2,040 millennials. Among the findings…

1.     On the matter of the COVID-19 vaccines, 25% of say they will not get vaccinated for COVID-19 while 55% say they will. 19% are unsure.

2.     24% have taken on medical debt since the pandemic began. Only 9% of the debtors reported this as being over $5000.

3.     83% do their own research after hearing doctor’s advice.

4.     37% would not see a doctor who has no online presence.

5.     42% trust their own research over doctor’s advice.

Further to the effect of COVID-19 on Millennials, last October, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a study entitled “Millennial Health: Trends in Behavioral Health Conditions.” The big finding here is that nearly one third of Millennials have a behavioral health condition, with significant increases in the prevalence of conditions like major depression (43%), ADHD (39%) and substance use disorder (SUD) (17%) since 2014. An astonishing 92% of millennials also said COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Not surprisingly, these individuals with behavioral health conditions are at increased risk for chronic diseases, such as:

  • Hypertension (1.9X)
  • Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis (1.9X)
  • Type 2 diabetes (2.1X)
  • Coronary artery disease (2.7X)

“This new data paints a clearer picture of the stark behavioral and physical health challenges that many millennials live with every day,” said Vincent Nelson, chief medical officer at BCBSA. “As a company and as a health care industry at large, it is vital that we continue to provide millennials with the personalized care solutions and support system they need to live healthy lives, for the better health of America.”