Stressed millennials are risk of heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes in later life

Young adults stressed about the housing crisis or job market may face a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in later life, experts have said.

The Health Foundation fears the ‘physiological wear and tear’ of expensive rent and zero-hour contracts will have lasting consequences.

Repeated emotional ‘ups and downs’ early in life are known to increase both blood pressure and the production of the stress-hormone cortisol.

Carrying this ‘heavy load’ puts a person at risk of non-infectious conditions like heart attacks and stroke down the line, the charity warned.

Young people may be particularly vulnerable because their brains are deemed more susceptible to change during the first two decades of life, it added. 

Millennials who are stressed about the housing crisis or tough job market may face a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in later life, health experts have warned (stock)

Millennials who are stressed about the housing crisis or tough job market may face a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in later life, health experts have warned (stock)

The charity’s director of health Dr Jo Bibby warns ‘generation rent’ could easily become stressed by moving a lot and the lack of security they have in their tenancies.  

While employment rates are good, many young adults find themselves in temporary positions and zero-hour contracts, which can lead to financial worries, she added. 

‘These things, although you can look at them and say they’re just social problems, actually they are health problems,’ Dr Bibby said.

‘We have young people being exposed to circumstances in their formative years that, the evidence would suggest, is going to increase their likelihood of allostatic load and therefore have consequences for their long-term health outcomes.’

Allostatic load describes the health consequences of being exposed to elevated hormone levels due to ‘repeated stressful challenges’.

‘If we want a healthy society in 30 years’ time we need to be thinking about the experience young people are having today in terms of their personal and social relationships, their housing and their employment,’ Dr Bibby said.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A MILLENNIAL? 

Born: 1977-1994

Coming of Age: 1998-2006

Age in 2017: 23 to 40

Product of change: Millennials came of age during a time of significant technological change, globalisation and economic disruption – giving them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.

Digital natives: Exposure to technology since early childhood has led to technology-sophistication, resulting in a sense of immunity to most traditional marketing and sales pitches.

They are used to instant access to price comparisons, product information and peer reviews.

That said, 60% of UK Millennials will engage with online content that interests them, even if it’s obvious that it’s been paid for by a brand.

Work-hard, play-hard attitude: Millennial’s are team-oriented, honest and enjoy building friendships with colleagues, but also want to have a life outside of work.

Naturally, most Millennials want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance and openness. They relish high levels of dual-direction feedback

Stability-anxiety: In spite of perceived across-the-board advantages of working as freelancers or consultants, nearly two-thirds of millennials said they prefer full-time employment.

Health-conscious: Millennial’s devote time and money to exercising and eating right.

Being physically and mentally healthy topped the list (77%) for UK Millennials when asked what would most help them live a happier, more fulfilled life.

Experience-economy: Over half of UK Millennials would rather spend money on an experience versus a possession (only 22.6% valued material goods over experiences).

Adapting to ‘internal’ stress affects a person’s nervous, hormonal and immune system.

And long-term exposure activates allostasis. This is the body’s attempt to achieve ‘stability’ throughout life’s challenges. 

Over time, allostasis puts a strain on the body. 

When this ‘overload’ becomes the norm, the body functions at a less than an optimal rate.

This can ‘predispose the organism to disease’, according to a Health Foundation report. 

‘A 100 years ago the kind of things people died of were infectious disease,’ Dr Bibby said.

‘It was very easy to know if people are subject to poor hygiene conditions they are more likely to get TB, they are more likely to be at risk of early death.

‘That was a very straightforward thing because you could see the pathogen, the bacteria, the cause of disease.

‘With a lot of the diseases we have now, long-term conditions, chronic diseases, it’s harder to say what the same pathogen is.

‘What this work on allostatic load has shown us is essentially exposure to poorer socio-economic circumstances almost is a pathogen of its own form and it increases people’s likelihood of poor health and early death.’ 

The report stresses, however, people can be resilient via a ‘shift and persist’ response.   

Nonetheless, The Health Foundation warns referring to millennials as ‘snowflakes’ is unhelpful. 

Dr Bibby said: ‘It was interesting we actually got a very, very positive response from young people, who were saying, “yeah this shows, this isn’t us being snowflakes, this isn’t about us not being as tough as our parents’ generation. This is showing the circumstances we are growing up in are more challenging and causing more stress”.’

The Health Foundation will tomorrow release a report on the issue, which it calls ‘one of the biggest untold health stories of our time’.  

It comes as part of the charity’s future health inquiry, which examines the potential long-term implications of economic and social insecurity on young people.

The report recommends changes in Government policy that could help create ‘less chronically stressful’ environments. 

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