A new study by Blue Cross Blue Shield found that the health of Millennials has been on a downward trend for the past five years, with their mental health in particular suffering, and the effects are only going to be exacerbated by the global pandemic.
In the study, which included a staggering 55 million folks in the Millennial age bracket (which typically spans ages 22-37), results suggest that across the five-year study period, there was a 43-percent increase in major depression. In addition, there was a 39 percent increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a 17 percent increase in substance misuse.
Examining the effects of the pandemic, meanwhile, 92 percent reported that the pandemic was having a negative impact on their mental health, with 34 percent reporting increased alcohol consumption, 20 percent reporting an increase in smoking, and 16 percent reporting increased use of non-medical drugs.
Beyond the mental health issues, BCBS notes that Millennials are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to believe that their mental health impacts their physical health and are more attuned to the “mind-body connection for overall health.” As such, Millennials who reported ongoing behavioral health challenges were 2.1 times more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, 2.7 times more likely to have coronary artery disease, 1.9 times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure or Chron’s disease, and 1.7 times more likely to have high cholesterol.
Commenting on the report, executive director of research and analytics, Brian Harvey, noted that “the key thing we are trying to focus on is that it’s important to take care of yourself, to get the care that you need and to make sure that you’re getting the behavioral health therapy that you need in order to manage your health over time.”
So how can you, as their employer, ensure that your Millennial workers are getting access to the mental health care services that they need and by default, potentially staving off a costly physical health crisis in the future? The report offers the following solutions:
Make it familiar
While the age range that this population cohort includes is vast, it does include two crucial groups: The folks that are currently holding down their first job out of college, as well as the folks who are “aging out” of their parents’ coverage under Obamacare after turning 26. What do these two groups have in common? They are, for the first time, selecting and enrolling in their own benefit plans. As such, they don’t really know what they’re doing and will be looking to their HR department to help explain what they need and what they can and can’t access under their plans. Be sure that you are providing very clear instructions about your offerings, enrollment process (including all deadlines), and even how to access the services to best support benefits use among this group.
Make it tailored
What your baby boomer finds desirable in a health benefits plan is unlikely to also appeal to their much younger counterparts. However, the one thing that both populations should agree upon is the importance of a primary care physician. For your Millennials, make sure that they understand that the PCP is the gatekeeper to all kinds of other physical and mental health providers and services. If you don’t think a PCP will fly, you could consider signing up for a program such as Wellvolution, which matches patients with providers based on their health goals (and bonus, it uses an all-digital platform!)
Make it easy
If we know anything about the younger set, you know that they are always asking “is there an app for that?” When it comes to accessing healthcare, make it easy for them and sign your company up to participate in virtual care and digital wellness apps where available. This holds particularly true for virtual visits or other easy modalities for mental health, such as providing users with access to Talk Space and other online counseling services.
What are you doing to ensure the mental – and physical – health of your younger workers?