Top Health Concerns for Millennials

By Haley Bass | 12/07/2016

In early 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the American workforce, making up just over a third of working adults in the United States—or roughly 53.5 million people.1

As millennials become the majority, a lot of other changes are happening in the workplace as well, impacting everything from work hours to health care. While health care in the workplace has often been equated to health insurance, millennials expect it to refer to all aspects of health. For millennials, being healthy doesn’t just mean not being sick – it’s a lifestyle focused on good nutrition, exercise, and general well-being.

But even with this desire for a healthy lifestyle, millennials are struggling with stress, understanding the health care system, and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

To adapt to this demographic change in your workplace, you need to understand the top health concerns that are affecting millennials, and how they can potentially affect your business.

Mental Health

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 12% of millennials have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and 19% have been diagnosed with depression.

These percentages are higher than other generations, causing researchers and psychologists to question why. A simple Google search of “millennial mental health” will return a whole slew of different speculations, from helicopter parenting and too many participation trophies, to sizeable student debt and a limited job market.

Regardless of why, your millennial employees are stressed out, and it’s likely impacting their productivity. A 2013 Gallup report found that workers with depression miss 8.7 days of work per year, which is double the amount missed by employees without depression. However, presenteeism (showing up for work, but lacking in productivity) is a greater concern, with 70% of millennials listing it as an issue related to their depression or anxiety.2

The desire for transparency among millennials has brought mental health into the spotlight, and they want these issues addressed, not stigmatized. As an employer, you can bring attention to mental health concerns through your wellness programs. By providing education and solutions for stress relief and general well-being, you show your employees that you support their concerns. This can increase morale and encourage millennials to get the help they need.

Obesity

Obesity affects one-third of the millennial population, thanks in part to sedentary lifestyles and a need for instant gratification.3 This puts young workers at a higher risk for breathing problems, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

With an on-the-go lifestyle, this younger generation tends to grab a quick snack or fast food rather than a regularly-scheduled, nutritious meal. They also often rely on caffeine over a good night’s sleep. More than 58% of millennials say they eat junk food several times a week, and 50% report drinking soda regularly. On top of that, 44% don’t exercise on a regular basis and 17% frequently smoke cigarettes.4

Employers can help combat the obesity epidemic through engaging, active health and wellness programs. You can offer healthier snack options in the break room, provide discounted or free gym memberships, or develop a wellness committee to increase health awareness.

Concentra’s wellness solution uses biometric screenings, health coaching and education, and incentive programs to encourage healthier lifestyle behaviors while helping businesses reduce health care spending and raise workforce productivity.

Health Insurance

While only 11% of millennials are now uninsured, health insurance continues to be a costly and confusing struggle for the young generation’s workers. Some might only be insured because they can be covered by their parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old. Others might be unaware of the need for insurance, opting to seek care only when needed – creating financial hardships in the future.

According to a survey by the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, cost seems to be the biggest barrier for this age group. With significant debt and low-paying entry level jobs, one in five millennials report being unable to afford health insurance, while an additional 26% say they can afford it, but with difficulty.

Another challenge is a lack of knowledge. Despite all of the online resources, only 5% of these “digital mavens” rely on the Internet for health information. In fact, 64% rely on a parent as their primary source for health care guidance. Less than a third of millennials report feeling well-informed about their health care options.

If employers want to help millennial workers understand their coverage, education is key. During the onboarding process, schedule some face-to-face or phone time between your new hire and an HR or benefits representative. To help with costs, use a discount on premiums as an incentive with your wellness program.

Alcohol

31% of American alcoholics are millennials,5 and about 44% of college-age millennials have a problem with binge drinking.3

Millennials have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism, often to self-medicate mental illness or manage stress. 50% of millennial alcoholics use alcohol to manage their mental disorder, while 25% of millennials with financial stress use alcohol as a stress reliever.5

Hopefully your employees aren’t showing up to work drunk or hungover, but the impact of their evening activities could have a huge impact on your company’s overall morale and productivity. Over time, alcoholism can cause depression, irritability, low energy, and a weakened immune system. This means levels of absenteeism and presenteeism could see a major rise in your office.

Again, education is key here. Offering classes on the effects of alcoholism through a wellness program could help your millennial workers find healthier ways to cope with their struggles. By improving the overall health and wellness of your workforce, you could help diminish the stress that leads to drinking.

For more ways on how to improve the wellness of your workforce and best help your millennial population, check out some of our related articles:


Resources
[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/
[2] http://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/millennials-depression-is-affecting-everyone-at-work.html/?a=viewall
[3] http://www.empowher.com/wellness/content/6-common-health-concerns-millennials
[4] http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100201006251/en/U.S.-Millennials-Healthy-Bad-Habits-Lead-Chronic#.VSSBSZTF9AF
[5] http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-24772/the-scary-truth-about-millennials-and-alcohol-abuse.html