Are Millennials Falling Sick More Than Other Generations? Fascinating Finds Made by a Study

Millennials made more healthcare utilizations than other generations, found the study. Does that point to a decline in health or better awareness and proactiveness?

Written by Rachel Davis

On Mar 11, 2023 – 4 minutes read

millennials falling sick healthcare utilization

A recent study(1) by Health Action Council and United Health Group found that healthcare consultation rate stood very high in millennials as compared to that in other generations. Compared to Generation X, Millennials with common chronic medical conditions greatly exceeded healthcare utilization. The results were published in the Sixth Annual White Paper of the group. What does that say about the health status of millennials as compared to others? What are the implications?

How far did millennials come in healthcare utilization from previous generations?

Millennials with lifestyle and behavioral conditions, among others, were found to greatly exceed utilization of health care compared to previous generations. The study was based on a sample of 126,000 individuals covering 38% of Health Action Council covered lives. These millennials and their children, as evidenced by the study, suffer chronic conditions at significant rates. Millennials comprise 27 to 42 year olds in 2023, those born in the period 1981-1996.

The study took a look at millennial healthcare utilization and treatment and found that 106% more hospital admissions were made by millennials than did Gen X (born 1965 to 1980). 

Millennials who made emergency room/ urgent care (ER/UC) visits in connection with hypertension were 55% more than Gen X. Related prescriptions dropped to 6 fewer than previous generations annually.

Obesity related ER/UC visits were found to be 31% more than that of Gen X; and obesity related hospital admissions 29% more than the latter group. However, it is to be noted that obesity rates of millennials among the total population remained low. 

Millennials and their significant others have a low incidence of obesity compared to the total population with only 2% of Millennial employees, 0.7% of their spouses/partners, and 0.4% of their children being obese. However, they do have higher facility utilization – noted the study.

Utilization of health care for behavioral problems is up 35% for Millennials and their children compared to pre-pandemic rates. Anxiety, depression and trauma disorders make up 66% of behavioral diagnoses. 

Child/teen behavioral health diagnoses also recorded a remarkable rise. Pediatric behavioral health utilization is at an all-time high in millennials. Anxiety and depression total 28% of the diagnoses; neurodevelopmental, trauma, impulse control and other disorders make up the rest. 

Millennials and their children account for 41% of neurodevelopmental disorder claims—a disproportionate share in relation to the 38% of covered lives. The most common diagnoses are attention deficit disorder (ADD) at 43% and autism spectrum disorders at 35%.

Dan Gardner, Vice President, Employer Solutions, Optum, dedicated to Health Action Council since 2019, noted: 

“For the last decade, the mental health of children has been declining in the United States, an issue that was accelerated by the pandemic, with ER up 20% and inpatient admissions increasing up to 61% in the last five years alone.”

For Health Action Council’s covered lives, the most often treated for suicidal thoughts and attempts fell in the Gen z group, with drug overdoses by older teens being the most prevalent.

Looking at substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol-related disorders Health Action Council Millennials, the study found that millennials are most likely to have SUD claims, however, slightly trail Generation X for claims related to alcohol.

Millennials with back disorders who have visited the ER and UC are 22% more than Gen X, with 46% higher hospital admissions. 

ER and UC visits for osteoarthritis is 36% higher than that in Gen X.

In 2019, 31% of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses were for Millennials; which rose to 38% in 2022. 

Millennial parents with Generation Alpha kids have a 38% higher healthcare utilization rate than those born in other generations with 22% higher ER visits, 9% higher UC visits, and 76% higher outpatient surgeries.

Millennial parents of Gen Alpha kids who scheduled virtual healthcare visits are 543% more than other generations!

According to the study, compared to other age groups, this generation and their children are significantly high utilizers of the health care system. What is driving higher utilization and what are the implications of that trend?

In fact, though Millennial utilization of the healthcare system is very high, their disease burden is low. As Millennials age, they may be expected to maintain this high level of utilization, or even increase utilization further.

Dr. Mykale Elbe, director of the MSN Nurse Practitioner Program and assistant professor of nursing at Maryville University in Town and Country, Missouri, attributed the rise in healthcare utilization to the recent development in accessible medical facilities, such as urgent care.

“Since the pandemic, healthcare providers in all settings have seen a surge in patients having mental health disorders and seeking help,” she said. 

“This makes health care available at the public’s fingertips for anything from a sore throat and lacerations to more serious concerns,” she reasoned. 

Elbe points out that in terms of mental health, millennials and younger generations are “breaking down the stigma,” which is leading to more symptom awareness and sought-after help from healthcare providers.

The analysis is positive suggesting that the case is not of millennials falling sick more than other generations, but of increased awareness, headway made in utilizing health care and in being proactive in seeking care on a regular basis.

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Hi! I am Rachel; a mom and a hair and makeup artist. I am very old-school and I love sharing my experiences on parenting, marriage, and daily life hacks. What is more fun than that! I believe that to take care of anything, you have to love and give your heart and soul to it. Writing has been my passion ever since I was little and it’s the best way I express myself – my thoughts and dreams. Here, I write about everything that I love.

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