A growing number of younger American adults aged 18 to 34 have been suffering from chronic health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and depression, according to new federal data.
Released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the data indicated that in 2019, more than half of young adults (equivalent to nearly 54%) dealt with at least one chronic health issue. Almost one in every four (or 22%) had two or more of these conditions.
“The most prevalent conditions were obesity (25.5%), depression (21.3%), and high blood pressure (10.7%),” said the team led by Kathleen Watson, of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Of the factors, a high cholesterol level was the most prevalent, affecting about 10% of adults under 35. Meanwhile, asthma affected over 9%, while 6% had arthritis.
The findings were not surprising. According to previous data from the CDC, nearly 12% of adults age 20 and older had total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL, and about 17% had high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL in 2015-2018. Because high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is already too high, raising the risk for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions.
The levels also contributed to the obesity rate in the country, which continues to rise with each passing year. Obesity is caused by unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles, as well as the traditional Western diet.
It’s not just physical health conditions as well, as the MMWR also reported that 27% of young adult women and 16% of young adult men were affected by depression, with rates especially high among the unemployed (31%).
“Because chronic conditions become more prevalent with age, a focus on prevention and risk factors is essential for health across the life span. Addressing health behaviors and intermediate conditions among young adults can help improve long-term health and well-being over the life course,” Watson’s team concluded.