Financial stress and social isolation having a significant impact on behavioral health
By Craig Kurtzweil
Millennials — those between the ages of 27 to 42 in 2023 — are now the largest generational group covered in employer health plans. What’s more, Millennials and their children are experiencing chronic health conditions and are utilizing medical resources at unexpectedly higher rates than older generations.
These are the results from a new white paper by the Health Action Council (HAC) and UnitedHealth Group (UHG) focused on Millennials . The research is based on generational data across more than 320,000 people with coverage — nearly 40% of whom are Millennials and their dependent children.
What are the causes of this increased use of the health care system?
First of all, Millennials are reaching their peak childbearing years, and pregnancy is their top cost driver. At the same time, this generation is starting to get more frequent diagnoses for age-related conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Social determinants of health (SDOH) indicators, such as financial stress and social isolation, are also having a significant impact, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study also indicates another lingering effect of the pandemic: Behavioral health utilization is up 35% for Millennials and their children.
This includes the following findings:
- 66% of diagnoses in Millennials are anxiety, depression and trauma disorders
- 28% of diagnoses are pediatric anxiety and depression (children of Millennials)
- 41% are neuro-development disorder claims, such as Attention Deficit and Autism Spectrum Disorders among Millennials and their children (a disproportionate share in relation to the 38% of covered lives)
Younger generations are also more engaged in their own health care diagnoses and treatment through higher use of technology. Millennials use their phones, search applications and social media far more than their older cohorts. They tend to be tuned into well-being, motivated to research their own conditions and are more aggressive in seeking treatments for themselves and their children.
How can employers help support this generation?
Early identification and interventions of health issues and improved access to care are mission-critical to addressing current behavioral and medical health crises. This report offers employers some top-of-mind recommendations, including:
- Understand Millennial employees’ health care utilizations and align benefits accordingly
- Maintain a focus on those with high-cost health needs
- At the same time, implement disease prevention, fitness campaigns and well-being programs to help delay the onset of chronic conditions
- Encourage proactive and preventive solutions while avoiding reactive emergency and urgent care
- Educate employees on preventable disease immunizations
- Support employee mental health by encouraging programs that help maintain balance
- Offer financial planning services, savings strategies and student loan repayment benefits
By building a well-managed plan that helps increase health literacy, provides tools and resources and helps cater to individual generations’ needs, it may lead to lower costs and better employee health as a whole.
To learn more, download the white paper by the Health Action Council (HAC) and UnitedHealth Group (UHG) focused on Millennials here.
Craig Kurtzweil chief data & analytics officer at UnitedHealthcare, leads a team of data scientists who help employers better understand cost and utilization data to improve employee health, productivity, and overall health care affordability. Kurtzweil has spent more than 20 years in the health care industry analyzing clinical, financial and consumer behavior data.