Nearly 73 million people living in the United States are millennials: people born between 1981 and 1996. This year, that number is expected to surpass the number of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), making the millennial generation the largest living adult generation in the U.S.
According to a recently released study on millennial health trends by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, less than 50% of millennials surveyed think their mental health is good or excellent. Often called the “burnout” generation — emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by poorly managed stress — millennials suffer higher rates of depression, substance abuse and alcohol use than the previous generation, Generation X, according to the study.
Numerous other studies have shown a correlation between social media use and issues with self-esteem and depression. This is especially true for millennials, as they are vulnerable to the unrealistic expectations and fear of missing out (FOMO) that social networking sites stoke.
The introduction of the smart phone has had a significant impact on the way we interact with the world around us. Although usage may vary depending on their age, millennials remain the first generation of Americans to embrace a digital existence fully, spending an average of six hours a day on their smartphones alone. This rise in the use of technology brings with it some health concerns.
Prolonged exposure to blue light from electronic devices causes eye strain, headaches and fatigue, and can impact quality of sleep. Though millennials may technically be sleeping for the recommended number of hours — seven to nine — the quality of their sleep is in question. Poor sleep can lead to an increased risk for cardiac disease and diabetes.
More than a quarter of the millennial generation do not have a primary care physician, which indicates they are not seeking preventative care. The Blue Cross study notes that 67% of millennials see a doctor only when they are sick and/or in urgent need of care, and more than half say the current national health system does not meet their needs. In contrast to the bonds with one primary care physician or family doctor of previous generations, millennials often prefer an immediate diagnosis, and treatment that don’t require them to make an appointment or spend time in a waiting room.
It’s advisable for members of every generation to seek out a primary care doctor to monitor their health and identify developing problems. Focusing on a healthy lifestyle — including a balanced diet, exercise, proper sleep, not smoking and limiting alcohol — is key.
By Priyanka Singh, M.D., Penn Medicine Princeton Health. To find a physician with Penn Medicine Princeton Health call 888-742-7496 or visit PrincetonHCS.org.