1 in 2 young people in the US has a chronic medical condition

  • Half of young adults live with a chronic disease.
  • These conditions include obesity, depression, high blood pressure and asthma.
  • CDC results show that depression affected 27 percent of young adult women, compared to only about 16 percent of men.

More than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are living with a chronic medical condition, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These conditions include obesity, depression, high blood pressure and asthma. The results were published in the CDCs on July 29 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

According to CDC researchers, 2019 data shows that more than half of young adults are currently living with at least one chronic condition, and nearly one in four have two or more.

The study also found for adults under the age of 35 that:

  • High cholesterol affected about 10 percent
  • Asthma affected over 9 percent
  • About 6 percent had arthritis

This data is based on telephone surveys conducted in 2019 of over 67,000 18-34 year olds in the United States

“Many of these chronic health conditions are what we call societal risk factors,” said Dr. Alex Li, deputy chief medical officer at LA Care Health Plan, told Healthline.

“Some of the societal risk factors include, for example, an increased prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle and easy access to processed foods,” he continued. “As well as less time for physical and mental wellness activities.”

The CDC results show that depression affected 27 percent of young adult women, compared to only about 16 percent of men.

Unsurprisingly, depression rates were highest among the unemployed at 31 percent.

dr Alex Dimitriu, double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park (California) Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD, previously said research also notes that women’s rates of depression often exceed those of men.

According to Dimitriu, the reasons for this difference between men and women can be traced back to biological factors, which include hormonal changes after puberty and postpartum depression.

“All potentially indicate a hormone-mediated increase in stress sensitivity, with possible variation in serotonin sensitivity,” he said. “Psychologically, it was also found that women are more likely to internalize feelings and are more sensitive to interpersonal relationships.”

Li pointed out that younger generations face higher levels of depression than previous generations.

“It’s less clear to me and probably less well-studied why we have such a high incidence of depression in our Gen Z and Millennial or 18-35 year old cohort compared to previous generations,” Li said.

He said his hypothesis is that young adults see a less bright future.

“[They] are more burdened by large debts, face an increasing number of existential crises such as global warming and a variety of other factors,” Li said.

Findings from the survey included that race and place of residence were associated with an increased risk of obesity, the most commonly identified chronic health condition.

About a third of young adults in rural areas were obese, according to the CDC report, but only about a quarter of urban residents were obese.

Black Americans were also more likely to live with obesity than whites; affected at nearly 34 percent, compared to nearly 24 percent of whites.

dr Louis Morledge, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, pointed out that a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of obesity. According to Morledge, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted activities from the outside in, affecting people’s lifestyles.

“Many have spent the last two years indoors in front of a computer,” he said. “And this age group has seen the most striking shift from experiencing community involvement in a variety of educational and professional settings to being residential and living alone.”

Morledge said long-term health risks of obesity include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and some cancers.

“Fortunately, chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, which account for about a quarter of our young adults, are modifiable through lifestyle changes,” Li said.

He explained that it may be possible to reverse some of these conditions by making healthy diet choices, eating smaller portions, and increasing our physical activity.

Li warned that the lifelong impact of chronic disease on this age group is “staggering.”

In addition to lifestyle factors that can help reduce the effects of these conditions, there are medications that can help keep cholesterol and high blood pressure in check.

The CDC recently reported that 2019 data shows more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds are living with at least one chronic condition.

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