People often think that youth and good health go hand in hand. And, to a certain extent, that’s true: Age is a risk factor for plenty of conditions, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to stroke. However, recent research indicates that the rule may not apply across the board.
Addiction statistics released in Blue Cross Blue Shield’s (BCBS) “The Health of Millennials Report” show that substance and alcohol misuse are two of the top 10 conditions millennials face. Both are serious, touching nearly every aspect of a person’s health and quality of life.
Understanding why people are struggling is the crucial first step toward taking action to help.
Behind Substance and Alcohol Use Among Millennials
The report looked at data from more than 55 million millennials who had health insurance. In 2017, BCBS found that this generation, born between 1981 and 1996, had near optimal health. But when the organization dug deeper into the data, it found that millennials may not be entirely in the clear.
Addiction statistics show that the prevalence of substance use disorder among millennials jumped 10% between 2014 and 2017. Alcohol abuse also slightly increased over the same period, by 1%. Notably, millennials fared worse than other generations: Eight of the top 10 health conditions — including major depression, substance use disorder, hypertension, hyperactivity and diabetes — were more common among millennials who were ages 34-36 in 2017 than they were among Gen Xers who were the same age in 2014.
Yet 83% of millennials consider their health to be good or excellent. Why is there such a disconnect between perception and reality?
Millennials as a generation have taken wellness as a lifestyle to new levels of popularity. That said, research indicates that millennials may struggle more with anxiety, depression and loneliness. They face new pressures that many born to earlier generations didn’t, such as the constant presence of social media and high student loan debt.
The link between mental and physical health is already established. Poor mental health can even increase your risk for cancer. Essentially, millennials are racking up plenty of stress, and those hidden mental health challenges can take a toll — enough to undo some of the health benefits of routine gym trips and organic smoothies.
Getting Help and the Importance of Treatment
Alcohol and drug misuse can have several long-term effects on the body, from liver, heart and brain damage to certain cancers. Both of these disorders can lead to chronic conditions that may require lifelong treatment.
Along with the physical effects, addiction carries social consequences. Alcohol and drug misuse can affect your employment and strain relationships with family and friends. If you’re struggling with addiction, getting help can make all the difference.
But addiction is a complex disease that actually changes your brain’s chemistry, and an effective addiction treatment program takes several approaches, from behavioral counseling and medication to treatment for mental health issues and long-term follow-up care.
You can receive treatment in either an outpatient or inpatient program. Outpatient treatment involves visiting a drug counselor on a regular basis to receive therapy. You’ll receive inpatient treatment, on the other hand, in a residential facility and go through a rehab program. You can work with your health care provider to decide on a treatment plan that’s informed by medical research and tailored to you.
Combating Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder
Millennials have been referred to as the “anxious generation,” so maybe it should come as no surprise that some of this anxiety may be manifesting itself physically in the form of depression and substance and alcohol misuse.
If you think you may need help, talk to your loved ones and your doctor about your treatment options. Recovering from addiction is a long process, but there’s no better time to start than now.