New Report Finds Millennials Face Rising Challenges with Mental Wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling a rise in behavioral health conditions among millennials, including depression and alcohol/substance abuse, according to a new “Health of America” report released by the BlueCross BlueShield Association (BCBSA).

The report, “Millennial Health Trends in Behavioral Conditions,” analyzed a data sample of 55 million commercially insured millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. Among the findings:

•   Nearly a third of millennials have a behavioral health condition, and most of those rates are rising by double digits.

•   Millennials with a behavioral health condition are at twice the risk of having a chronic physical condition.

•   Millennials from majority Black and Hispanic communities have lower rates of behavioral health conditions compared to millennials from white communities, but that disparity is likely due to under-diagnosis.

•   Substance use disorder continues to rise among millennials. Those diagnosed with an opioid use disorder are 46% less healthy than their peers and treatment varies by race with Blacks and Hispanics having lower overall rates of treatment than whites.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be accelerating the rise of behavioral health conditions among millennials, according to the report. Certain lifestyle behaviors have risen among millennials since the outbreak began that can lead to the development of behavioral health conditions or worsen existing ones,” it notes.

Harrisburg-based Capital BlueCross, an independent licensee of the BCBSA, is taking steps to help improve millennials’ health, including the company’s ongoing efforts to educate the public on how to best use their healthcare coverage. A 2019 BCBSA survey found about one third of millennials, including many with health insurance coverage, lacked a primary care provider and most did not seek regular preventive care, especially when compared to Gen Xers and baby boomers. Capital BlueCross sees the promotion of preventive care as a critical strategy to improve health among millennials.

Millennials also want the added flexibility and convenience of telehealth, so Capital BlueCross has been encouraging the use of its Virtual Care app to connect more people with healthcare providers. In fact, Capital BlueCross is waiving member fees through the end of 2020 for medical, psychiatry, and counseling visits using its Virtual Care app.

Why should non-millennials be concerned about the struggles of millennials? Because the overall health of millennials can take a collective toll on the social and economic well-being of all of us, considering millennials make up roughly a fifth of the U.S. population and they are the largest generation represented in the U.S. labor force.

“The implications of the health challenges millennials face touch us all,” the report states. “Ensuring the health of this generation will take the work of partners across the health care system.”