Millennials Are Most Likely to Lose Their Lives to Addiction
Two non-profits, Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust, published a report this month which paints a harrowing picture of reality for millennials with an addiction in the United States. According to the report, which is an analysis of data from the CDC, millennials are the most likely age demographic to die from alcohol, drug abuse, and suicide. Millennials are most often defined as people who were born between the years 1981 and 1996, although some definitions expand the category to cover people who were born up through the year 2000.
Over the course of one decade, from 2007 to 2017, the rate of alcohol-related deaths among millennials rose by 69%, the rate of deaths caused by drugs rose by 108%, and the rate of suicide rose by 35%. The report also indicates that the opioid epidemic has devastated millennials. From 1999 to 2017, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses among millennials rose by 500% and the rate of fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids (especially fentanyl) skyrocketed by 6,000%.
“Deaths of Despair”
The tragic death toll which alcohol and drugs have inflicted on millennials is not just a coincidence. In fact, the report suggests numerous factors that are leading the age group into the kind of despair and hopelessness which so often spawns substance use disorders. In general, millennials are struggling with a variety of hardships, including:
- Crushing student debt
- Difficulty establishing a career
- High costs of housing
- High costs of healthcare and health insurance
- Loss of potential income and savings as a result of the Great Recession
- Raising young children on low wages
As a nation, we need to pay particular attention to the lived experience of the Millennial generation. They are young parents, many have burdensome levels of education debt, they are more than one-third of today’s workforce and comprise the largest proportion of Americans serving in the military. Unfortunately, they also comprise the largest portion of people in prison. They are grappling with economic, health and social challenges unique to their generation.
Overall, economic indicators suggest that millennials as a generation are poorer than their parents and grandparents. This reality impacts every aspect of their lives, including their likelihood to develop addiction. Brittany Rose Hallett is one example of a millennial who suffered what the report identifies as a “death of despair.” Overwhelmed by student loan debt and unemployment, Brittany developed an alcohol use disorder which resulted in fatal pancreatitis. The report finds that despair-driven addiction among millennials is not only a tragedy, but also a burden on a healthcare system which is practically inaccessible already for many low-income Americans.
The Impact of Healthcare Disparities Throughout the Country
The Commonwealth Fund, another non-profit, also published a report this week which addresses high death rates among American Millennials. The report ranks each state on the basis of the overall health of each state’s population. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Connecticut, Vermont are the healthiest states, according to the Commonwealth Fund, while Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi are the least healthy.
The main factor which affects public health in each state is access to health care. For instance, states which chose to not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act tend to have lower overall health scores. In one state, West Virginia, expanding Medicaid coverage drastically increased the percentage of opioid-addicted residents who received treatment for their addiction.
Access to healthcare is important for millennials who are struggling with addiction and despair, yet many cannot afford health insurance premiums or other medical expenses. In some states, even with the Affordable Care Act, households spend about 8% to 10% of their annual income just to pay for health insurance. Health care is becoming more expensive in America, but millennials are not making more money. This is one important reason why many younger people are not receiving the care they need to overcome addiction.
What Does the Report Recommend to Help Millennials With Addiction?
The Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust report offers several recommendations for how governments, healthcare centers, and communities across the country can help millennials enjoy better mental health, obtain easier access to health care, and get support for overcoming alcohol and drug addiction. The recommendations are meant to reduce the number of people who develop addictions and die from substance abuse.
Some of the report’s recommendations include:
- Guaranteeing behavioral healthcare as an essential aspect of primary care
- Removing barriers to treatment in rural areas
- Offering behavioral health screenings at colleges and universities
- Increasing health insurance and Medicaid coverage for addiction treatment
- Preventing and addressing childhood trauma
- Continuing and expanding suicide prevention programs within the healthcare system
- Creating drug courts and mental health courts in every state
- Strengthening policies to prevent teenagers and underage adults from buying alcohol
These recommendations, if implemented, would likely help to reduce “deaths of despair” in America. There is a way for you to take action as well. If you know a millennial who’s struggling with addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact a dedicated treatment specialist today to learn more about the many options for treatment.