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Declining Millennial Health Could Impact Prosperity Of US: Study

health 042312 07nov19

The health of millennials in the United States is declining faster than that of the previous generation, and if this pattern continues, it will severely affect the future prosperity of the U.S. economy, a new study said.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS), an apex body of 36 U.S. health insurance providers, said its examination of millennial health patterns returned many "interesting and concerning" findings, particularly regarding future impacts on healthcare costs and economic activity.

Defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1996, millennials now make up the largest share of the U.S. population and labor force, a key component of U.S. economic growth as consumers, workers, and business owners.

Both the physical health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, such as major depression and hyperactivity of millennials are at risk, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index data.

Without intervention, millennials' mortality rates will increase by more than 40 percent compared to the previous generation, BCBS warns.

This will result in greater demand for treatment and higher healthcare costs in the years ahead. Under the most adverse scenario, millennial treatment costs are estimated to be 33 percent higher than that incurred for the previous generation.

Poorer health among millennials will keep them from contributing as much to the economy as they otherwise would, causing higher unemployment and slower income growth. It is estimated that lower levels of health could cost millennials more than $4,500 per year in real per-capita income.

The limited nature of the mortality data makes it difficult to pinpoint a specific cause of the most recent uptick, but it ranges from drug overdoses to cancers.

Between 2014 and 2017 alone, prevalence of major depression and hyperactivity among millennials was up by 30 percent, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index data shows.

According to the CDC, accidental deaths, which include overdoses and suicides, were the cause of 60 percent of the deaths among 25-29 years old in 2017. A generation before, in 2002, those two causes accounted for less than half of all deaths in the same age group.

The first consequence of these health declines is an increase in the amount spent for treatment. This has the potential to tax the already burdened U.S. healthcare infrastructure, the study says.

The United States currently spends more than 18 percent of its GDP on healthcare expenditures, the highest in the developed world.

"The youngest millennials won't turn 40, around the time when most of these conditions historically begin to reach critical mass, for another 17 years. Thus, the projected increases in millennial healthcare costs over the next ten years may only be the tip of the iceberg, with more serious implications to come," the study says.

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