The poor health of millennials could put a damper on the U.S. economy, according to Moody’s. It is more common for millennials, who are born between 1981 and 1996, to suffer from hypertension, high cholesterol, depression, and hyperactivity than their Generation X counterparts at the same point in their lives.
Moody’s Analytics found the data in a report by Blue Cross Blue Shield, concluding that by the year 2027 health costs for young adults could be 33% higher than they were for Generation X at the same page. This could lead to lower wages, Moody’s argues.
This means increasing health care costs on employers and workers, as well as the federal and state governments. “Declining millennial health is causing health care expenses to increase, and that’s a financial burden, certainly on millennials but also on the broader economy,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s.
Millennials comprise a quarter of the nation’s labor force. These health issues, according to Moody’s, could result in lower income for young adults throughout their careers, because employees might be forced to miss work and are less productive.
“When people get sick, they have a harder time holding on to jobs, and once they get them, they spend fewer hours at work, they are more likely to be sick or tardy, and are less engaged and less focused, which is key to productivity growth,” Zandi said.
He also contended that sickness discourages entrepreneurship. “It affects people’s ability to start their own companies and take risks because they are wrapped up in their own health care problems and they can’t focus on anything else.”
Moody’s traces the poor health back to the 2008 financial crisis, when millennials were in their late teens and early twenties. “They came of age during a financial crisis and one of the worst economies we’ve suffered in 10 years. They were behind the financial eight-ball from the beginning,” Zandi said. “When they realized they couldn’t get suitable work, they stayed in school and took on student loan debt. They went through a very difficult time and the trauma has affected them.”
Mental and behavioral conditions in millennials could be tied to financial insecurity stemming from the financial crisis. The opioid epidemic, according to Moody’s, has made the problems worse for millennials – including depression, hyperactivity, and drug, and alcohol abuse often require costly, long-term care.
“If this trend continues unabated and the health care shock continues to mount, it will be devastating on this generation and the economy,” Zandi said.
Blue Cross Shield spent a year gathering the data. “Over the past year, we met with millennials, health care providers, employers and community leaders across the country in 14 cities to learn more about what we can do to improve health care for millennials,” said Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). “This generation places high value on personalized care, which treats both the mind and the body in a holistic manner, and they are challenging all of us – employers, providers, health plans – to meet their unique needs and put them on a path towards better health.”
Zandi added: “Millennials are the largest, most educated, and most connected generation ever. But they also have serious health issues that if not addressed will have serious long-term consequences for their well-being and the performance of the U.S. economy.”