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Are Millennials The Unhealthiest Generation In History?


A recent study suggested that despite still being a part of the younger section of society, the millennial generation (22-38) is actually less healthy than Gen X (40-54) were at the same age.

But what is behind this phenomenon? Millennials are often associated with health and fitness trends such as Yoga and meditation but have also seen the highest levels of asthma and allergies ever recorded. So, what could be behind this shift?

To understand the attitudes of millennials and younger people in the UK, ANCON Medical has conducted nationally representative research on the habits and sentiments of this generation.

Key research findings:

  • 18% of millennials report that they don’t know how to take care of themselves properly – 2,345,000 compared to just 4% of those over 55 years old
  • 35% of millennials believe that they are less healthy than their parents – 2,772,000
  • 22% of millennials don’t consider their own health to be a priority – 1,050,000
  • 27% of millennials feel they are too young for vices such as smoking or drinking to affect their health – 3,243,000
  • 49% of millennials have not visited a doctor in 5 years

These statistics suggest that not only are millennials growing up in an increasingly unhealthy environment but also that they are not currently taking their health seriously or making it a priority.

Despite the far greater understanding of the impact vices such as smoking and drinking have on our health, it is still a prominent source of poor health as young people ignore health advice, especially around Christmas and special occasions.

Vices – 

  • 27% of millennials find that casual drinking often turns into binge drinking
  • 49% of millennials that are casual smokers will become regular smokers during the Christmas period due to increased stress levels, and alcohol – compared with 13% of those aged 55+
  • 39% of millennials feel that the amount they drink and smoke over Christmas this year will affect their future health

In addition to unhealthy habits and vices, a lack of knowledge or motivation to eat healthily could be having a marked effect on the health of young people.

The NHS says that “Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health” but many struggle to find the time to make this a reality.

Diet – 

  • 18% of millennials – 953,000 people – eat more takeout food than home-cooked food
  • 18% of millennials – 952,000 – don’t know how to cook a good/ healthy meal from scratch
  • 15% of millennials – 783,000 – say the majority of their main meals are microwave meals

The two spheres of mental and physical health have long been misunderstood and treated as two separate entities with little effect on each other.

However, the Mental Health Foundation reports “Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems.

Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.”

Mental health –

  • 38% of millennials feel that they have had undiagnosed anxiety and depression for several years
  • 39% of millennials think that their work-life balance is negatively affecting their physical and mental health
  • 33% of millennials ignore consistent symptoms of depression due to being too busy

All of these factors play a part in the ageing process and the rising likelihood of developing serious illnesses such as cancer in later life.

However, the attitudes towards this can be seen already, with many unable to follow advice on cancer monitoring due to a lack of time.

Air quality is an area that has been hotly debated in the recent past. A November study found that living near a busy road can stunt the development of a child’s lungs by as much as 14%, also carrying an increased risk of developing lung cancer of 10%. Increased exposure to air pollution in built-up areas is also thought to contribute to the development or worsening of asthma – especially in children.

As the millennial generation grows older, these effects will likely be become more apparent and reveal what impact poor diet, air pollution and mental health burdens have had on a generation.

 Cancer – 

  • 25% of millennials have ignored potentially serious symptoms due to their workload
  • 26% of millennials have made no effort to make healthy lifestyle choices, despite being aware of a family history of hereditary cancers
  • Just 16% of millennials regularly carry out any recommended cancer checks

Wesley Baker – CEO of ANCON Medical discusses the findings of the research:

“The increased demands and stresses from work and the environment that young people are currently living with is without a doubt having an impact on the health and wellbeing of a generation.

The lack of time to take care of yourself properly is a key issue for our future health and so it is worrying to see that so many are unable to prioritise their health due to their pressures at work.

“Catching illnesses early is one of the most effective ways of tackling them and it is concerning to see that this generation are going without visits to the doctor while living a lifestyle that is, in many ways, acutely unhealthy.

You lay the foundations for your health in later life in your twenties and thirties, it isn’t something to neglect at any stage of life.”