Millennials, the largest generation in America, are not paying attention to their health.
That’s the opinion of Dr. Niket Sonpal, adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. Sonpal – himself a millennial – said too many of his peers are skipping annual health exams. Instead they tend to get any needed health care treatment at urgent-care facilities.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, there are 83 million Americans between the ages of 22 and 37. Of those, 45 percent ages 18-29 and 28 percent of those 30-39 do not have a primary care physician.
“You’re looking at a generation with incredible debt, and many don’t have jobs with health insurance,” Sonpal said.
In addition, many millennials depend on medical websites to address health issues.
“When we got sick as kids, our mom searched for answers online,” Sonpal said. “If we went to the doctor, it was a day of missed school and boring waiting rooms. Now as adults, millennials want fast, affordable solutions, and often take a DIY approach to health.
While visiting an urgent-care facility is acceptable for treating minor ailments, Sonpal said millennials might be missing an opportunity to identify a serious health problem early and get treatment.
Sonpal advised all millennial women to get wellness exams, which includes a PAP smear, breast exam, bloodwork and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. He also encourages all millennials get five key exams, suggesting they be done either at the start of the year or during their birthday month, so they can easily remember when to schedule their next exam.
Blood pressure screenings: Blood pressure should be checked every two years or every year if the top number is 120 to 139 and the bottom number between 80 and 89. High blood pressure is linked to diabetes, which is beginning to affect millennials.
Eye exams: It is estimated millennials spend more than 12 hours a day on mobile devices or screens held close to their eyes. This leads to a condition where the eye is weakened and can’t see clearly at a distance. “A lot of millennials are popping ibuprofen for headache associated with eye strain and neck ache from prolonged computer jobs,” Sonpal said, adding the practice could lead to stomach issues.
Irritable bowel syndrome and digestive screenings: Sonpal noted that millennials have been raised on a diet of processed foods loaded with antibiotics and hormones, which can lead to gluten intolerance. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found the incidence of colon cancer has been rising fastest for people between ages 20 and 29. This leads to more self-treatment for an ailment that could be serious.
Mental health screening: The good news is millennials are the first generation that doesn’t see any stigma about discussing their feelings with a therapist. The bad news is, according to Psychology Today, suicide rates among young adults have tripled since the 1950s.