Perceived as angsty teens in movies such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the Back to the Future trilogy, Generation X now has teenagers of their own. Sometimes called the “sandwich generation,” Generation X sits right in the middle of Baby Boomers and Millennials.
While not entirely faithful to the digital world like Millennials, Gen Xers are still tech-savvy, as well, and that leads to their attitude about health. As an increase in consumer information via the internet helps Gen X learn about health-related issues, there are still some common concerns for their health.
Gen X and Healthcare
Before we jump into the widespread health concerns 40 and 50 year-olds face, we'll briefly discuss Generation X and how healthcare shapes their need to visit providers.
What Generation Are You In?
- Baby Boomers: Birth years ranging from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s.
- Generation X: Birth years ranging from early-to-mid 1960s to the early-to-mid 1980s.
- Millennials (Generation Y): Birth years ranging from the mid-to-late 1980s to the mid-to-late 1990s.
- Generation Z: Birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to mid-2010s.
Generation X is an impressive generation to look at in regards to healthcare. Not only did they grow up with the internet in their late teens to 20s, but their access to information via direct-to-consumer advertising helped. Beyond the role that advertising played, those born in this particular generation saw the dawn of advocacy groups and witnessed the AIDS crisis firsthand, thus resulting in a more discerning attitude toward healthcare than previous generations. Here are five reasons that keep Gen X teetering between visits to providers, finding healthcare information, and ultimately their decisions.
- Caught in the Middle: Stuck between aging parents and their own children, it is easy to see that health for a Gen Xer may be pushed to the wayside.
- Search for Information: Gen Xers search and source their information online and tend to be extremely knowledgeable regarding health.
- Appearance is Important: How Gen Xers look on the outside is critical—many don’t like the effect of aging and will seek medical treatments to improve appearance.
- Loyal but Skeptical: While Gen Xers tend to trust their providers, they are often still skeptical about large pharmaceutical and insurance companies, as well as, large healthcare systems and hospitals.
- Communication is Needed: While believing physicians offer the best information, they are still using the internet to gain insight into their health. Open communication, transparency, and the actionable prognosis is essential for Gen X.
Beyond these reasons, we list the top health-related concerns that occur with this generation.
4 Common Health Concerns of Gen X
The Global Health and Wellness Report (GHWR) from 2017 found that in 2016, 152 million Americans (62.5%) were diagnosed with a “preexisting” condition for future health services. Generation X has quite a few health concerns to look out for as they age, from cardiovascular disease to metabolic disease, and cancer to mental health. We discuss the top 4 health concerns for Gen X below.
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States annually. These diseases include coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke, and congenital heart disease. Heart disease has a wide range of issues that affect the heart’s function. Most cardiovascular diseases lead to a heart attack (cardiac arrest) due to arteries becoming blocked and preventing oxygen from reaching the heart. These diseases, unfortunately, cannot be cured, but people can control the onset conditions with medications and lifestyle changes.
2. Metabolic Disease
High blood pressure, obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes are a significant concern for Gen Xers. Lack of physical activity and unhealthy diets contribute to nearly 1 in 3 adults having some metabolic disease. With the Center for Disease Control estimating over 7.2 million people in the U.S. don’t know they have diabetes, and 1.5 million new cases recorded each year, adult-onset diabetes is a massive concern for Gen X.
According to the GHWR, the United States is the largest population with obesity, at 31.5% of it’s population having a metabolic disease and “more than 1 in 3 Americans ages 35 and up are obese.” Having a metabolic illness does not mean you have metabolic syndrome, but it does increase the risk for other diseases. A metabolic disease can increase the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes. Combating these problems means that lifestyle changes are necessary.
Two distinct cancers affect Gen X—prostate cancer and breast cancer. In 2017, the GHWR states that cancer accounts for 23% of U.S. deaths. Early detection is crucial in helping combat this rate, and annual prostate exams and yearly mammograms are essential for early detection. Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and vaccine treatments.
Beyond breast and prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society published a report in 2017’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which describes rectal cancer rates that are increasing among those under 50 and adults just over the 50-age threshold. While overall rates have been declining due to widespread screenings, from 1990 to 2013, rectal cancer rates increased by 2 percent-per-year within adults aged 40 to 54. Lead researcher Rebecca Siegel said, “If you’re young or even if you’re in your early 50s, if you have symptoms consistent with colorectal cancer like blood in the stool, abdominal cramps, changes in bowel patterns, go to your doctor and insist that they follow up.”
4. Mental Health
According to the GHWR, “43% of Americans say they suffer from psychiatric conditions such as depression or anxiety, but only 26% have been actually diagnosed with these conditions.” Many Gen Xers are facing mental health issues as they age. Among the list of issues includes anxiety and depression. NYU Langone Medical Center published a report in the journal Psychiatric Services, and the findings concluded that “3.4% of the U.S. adult population (more than 8.3 million) suffer from serious psychological distress, or SPD.”
As for those in Gen X, the findings are concerning because according to the report, “[the] most surprising isn't necessarily that the overall numbers [of serious psychological distress] have increased….” It is also important to note that, “there's a newfound high-risk group: middle-aged adults; that's adults from about the age of 45 to 59 in the US, who previously had not been thought to be at high risk for mental illness or suicide….” Problems stemming from these mental health issues can lower quality of life, but with proper care and treatments, many can overcome diagnosis.
Ask Voyage Healthcare
Are you curious about other questions you might want to ask your provider? Take a look at our free guide below, and you’ll know what to ask and when, whether you’re a Boomer, a Gen Xer, or even a Millennial.