By Anna McKenzie

Millennials have been suffering from a health decline in recent years, experiencing higher rates of depression, suicide, and drug overdose than the previous generation. A number of factors have been implicated in this decline, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put them in the spotlight: Millennials are dealing with a poor job market, a diminished ability to build wealth, and increasing isolation. In a 2020 Deloitte survey, 44% of millennials said they were stressed most or all of the time. For these young adults dealing with stress and burgeoning mental health issues, recovery is still possible — but it’s important to know exactly what millennials are facing.

COVID-19 and Other Factors Influencing the Health of the Millennial Generation

According to a Harris Poll survey, 31% of those 18-34 were laid off or put on temporary leave due to COVID-19 compared to 22% of those ages 35-49, and just 15% of those 50-64.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born between 1981-1996 and have now experienced two major economic downturns. The Great Recession hampered their economic prospects early, especially affecting those entering the job market between 2008-2010. While this taught millennials to start saving at an earlier age than other generations, it also put a dent in their primary wealth-building years.

Millennials are earning 20% less than baby boomers did at their age, according to NewAmerica.org, and their net worth has decreased 34% since 1996. Debt, especially student loans, has made things even more complicated: One in six millennials owes $50,000 or more (excluding home loans), according to Bank of America.

With 20% of millennials being officially classified as poor, financial instability has been a contributor to this generation’s delay of marriage and homeownership. The cost of that lack of companionship and a place to call “home” is growing feelings of failure and isolation for many.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these feelings, separating millennials from their social groups and potential romantic partners due to lockdown or fear of disease. Not only that, but their financial stability and opportunity to build wealth has been damaged once again: According to a Harris Poll survey, 31% of those 18-34 were laid off or put on temporary leave due to COVID-19 compared to 22% of those ages 35-49, and just 15% of those 50-64.

Rates of Suicide and Drug Overdose Among Millennials

Accidental deaths (including overdose) are occurring more frequently for millennials than for the previous generation, but suicide has also become more common. According to a Trust for America’s Health report (based on CDC data), the following has been shown among ages 18-34 between 2007-2017:

  • A 108% increase in drug-related deaths
  • A 69% increase in alcohol-induced deaths
  • A 35% increase in suicide deaths

In 2017, accidental deaths and suicides were the cause of 60% of deaths among those 25-29 years old. But the opioid crisis has affected everyone significantly: Accidental deaths related to an overdose of heroin or synthetic opioids has increased across the board (for all age groups over 18) by 1,400%.

Mental and Behavioral Health Conditions On the Rise Among Millennials

Female young adult depressedDue at least in part to the circumstances mentioned above, mental and behavioral health issues have been on the rise among millennials, and their physical health has also been at risk. A November 2019 report from Blue Cross Blue Shield finds that “millennials are seeing their health decline faster than the previous generation as they age. This extends to both physical health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, such as major depression and hyperactivity.”

This has implications for treatment costs which may further complicate the millennial generation’s financial status. According to the report:

  • Millennial treatment costs may be 33% more than those of Gen X at the same age.
  • Mortality rates for millennials could rise by more than 40% than those of Gen X at the same age.
  • Millennials’ health decline could cost them more than $4,500 per year compared to Gen X’s costs at the same age.
  • Rates of major depression and hyperactivity among millennials jumped by 30% between 2014-2017.

These physical, behavioral, and mental health conditions that millennials are dealing with may be caused or exacerbated by substance use. The Atlantic reports that “white people in their 20s and 30s are dying from alcoholic liver disease, a condition that normally takes decades of hard drinking to develop.” This is far from the only ethnic group affected or substance use disorder being seen: Drug deaths among young adults have increased 400% in the last 20 years, according to the Well Being Trust, especially due to the opioid epidemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions may only serve to increase the personal, financial, and health-related problems millennials are facing. However, healing and a renewed perspective are not out of reach. About 75% of millennials responding to a 2020 Deloitte survey said that “the pandemic has made them more sympathetic toward others’ needs and that they intend to take actions to have a positive impact on their communities.” While they may have endured some losses, Millennials may yet look outward and overcome their challenges to a positive effect. Those who are struggling can still embrace physical, emotional, and mental health recovery if they choose.

Treatment for Millennials and Others

Our treatment team is equipped to meet the needs of millennials and members of Generation Z who are suffering from addiction and mental conditions, including those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research-backed program includes a spectrum of therapeutic interventions that allow individuals to heal from their conditions and thrive again. We are focused on healing the whole person, addressing any underlying trauma, for the best chance of long-term recovery. If you or a loved one is dealing with substance use or mental health conditions, please contact us today.