A hospital corridor (Credit: iStock) (Credit: iStock)

As millennials reach their mid- to late 30s, they are seeing their health decline more rapidly than previous generations did at the same age. This trend could seriously affect the U.S. economy if it continues over the next decade, according to a report released Wednesday by Moody’s Analytics.

The report projected that millennials would experience slower economic growth and pay more in health care costs, compared with Gen Xers at the same age, which could have a crippling effect on the economy.

Researchers developed two scenarios of millennial health and the potential effect over the next decade. The baseline scenario represented how health shocks have historically played out; the adverse one represented a continuation of current trends throughout the next decade.

Here’s what the report predicted if millennial health continues to decline and goes unaddressed over the next 10 years, in comparison to Gen Xers at the same age:

  • Health care treatment costs could rise as much as 33%
  • Mortality rates could rise as much as 40%
  • Millennials’ annual income may be reduced by as much as $4,500 per person, on average, because poor health would likely result in reduced working hours or job loss

Moody’s Analytics analyzed the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index, which quantifies upward of 300 health conditions to identify the ones that may affect Americans’ quality of life and longevity. The index is powered by annual data from some 41 million commercially insured Blue Cross and Blue Shield members nationwide.

The research focused on early millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and late Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014. (BCBS data only covers the period between 2013 and 2017.)

The report noted that millennials’ more rapid health decline as they age extends to both physical health conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, such as major depression and hyperactivity — with attendant burgeoning costs and increased mortality rates, absent intervention.

The projected loss of income because of lower levels of health would likely be concentrated in areas that are already struggling economically, where income inequality already is an issue and behavioral health conditions are prevalent, according to the report, which noted that millennials are the biggest contributors to the U.S. labor market, comprising more than 35% of all workers and rising.

“Millennials are the largest, most educated and most connected generation ever,” Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. “But they also have serious health issues that if not addressed will have serious long-term consequences for their well-being and the performance of the U.S. economy.”

According to the report, a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association survey found that many millennials were not seeking preventive care, which can result in adverse health. For instance, two-thirds of millennials said they saw a doctor only when they were sick or in urgent need of care, and nearly a third said they did not have a primary care physician.

The Moody’s analysis was a follow-up to the BCBSA report, The Health of Millennials, which found that compared with Gen Xers, millennials were likelier to experience major depression, hyperactivity and type II diabetes, among other behavioral and physical conditions.

“Over the past year, we met with millennials, health care providers, employers and community leaders across the country in 14 cities to learn more about what we can do to improve health care for millennials,” Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said in the statement.

“This generation places high value on personalized care, which treats both the mind and the body in a holistic manner, and they are challenging all of us — employers, providers, health plans — to meet their unique needs and put them on a path towards better health.”