Gen X: The Time to Get Serious About Longevity Is Now
Generation X has longed suffered as the ‘middle child’ of all American generations. Because Gen X is one of the shortest generations – spanning only a 15-year period from 1965 to 1980 – there are only 65 million Gen Xers, compared with 77 million Baby Boomers and 83 million Millennials. Gen X is also overshadowed by these generations with big personalities. Baby Boomers are notoriously goal-oriented, driven and have a ‘work to live’ attitude, while the Millennials are carving their own path in life and are characterized as technology-focused and ideological. As a result, Gen Xers are sandwiched in the middle as the ‘responsible’ generation that is busy working, taking care of their aging parents, their own children and themselves. All the while images of Generation X make us think of an ‘angsty’, grungy generation listening to alternative music and lamenting the place they find themselves in life.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that an American can expect to live an average of 78.8 years, down one month from the previous 78.9 years.1 This is the first time a decline in life expectancy has been seen in the U.S. in more than 20 years,1 and it has struck a nerve with Americans. Coupled with the fact that one in two American adults is living with a chronic disease.2 The question now – how is this possible with all of the extraordinary advances in science and unprecedented amounts of money spent on healthcare each year?
Let’s face it. Gen Xers are in a tough position all around, from juggling their work and family lives to managing their health. To get to the bottom of this, we conducted the MDVIP Health & Longevity Survey among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to understand and compare their health habits, views on longevity and expectations of aging.
Through the survey, we learned a great deal, and the best news – all hope is not lost! Gen Xers are in the prime of their lives, and they are in a position to take control of their health and change their behaviors to make a positive impact on their health today and in the future, before it’s too late. As we delved into the survey findings to understand the views on aging, here’s my take on the most important results:
Generation X: Anxious Procrastinators Worried About Aging, Too Overwhelmed to Take Action
Overall, the MDVIP Health & Longevity Survey showed that Gen Xers are worried about getting older and all that it brings. For example, more than half of Gen Xers said they want to live past the age of 90, with more than a quarter wanting to live beyond 100. If you think about it, Gen Xers clearly want to live a long and healthy life. But, the reality is that the average American life expectancy is only 78.8 years. This signals to us that they are not going to achieve their goal as it stands today without a plan-of-action.
The Unstable Reality of the Sandwich Generation
The cost of healthcare is unsettling for Gen Xers too, with half expecting to help family members pay for future healthcare costs, yet nearly 40 percent expect their family to support them as they age. The survey results also showed that nearly half of Gen Xers expect to continue working as they age, while maintaining responsibility for caring for their parents, adult children and grandchildren. With uncertain financial ‘safety nets’ in place, like pensions and Social Security, Gen Xers are feeling the crunch.
Prevention Matters, But It’s Too Hard
The majority of Gen Xers surveyed believe their lifestyle choices play an equal or greater role than genetics in their health and how long they live. Yet, they are less likely to take preventive health measures compared to their Boomer counterparts. We were very surprised to find that only half of Gen Xers – versus 72 percent of Boomers – have had an annual physical exam in the past five years, and one in three Gen Xers avoid going to the doctor out of fear of finding something wrong. When they do see a doctor, Gen Xers do not follow the doctor’s orders because it’s too much work and not a priority.
Gen Xers agreed that prevention is the most important part of healthcare that needs to change for the next generation, but two out of three admit they could be doing a better job of eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and managing stress.
The Aging Fear Factor Is Real for Gen Xers, But They Aren’t Focused on the Reality of Aging
Gen Xers share a range of fears about aging, with more than half reporting they are afraid of getting old, and 70 percent saying they think about their own mortality more now than they did 10 years ago. But when it comes to aging, they are more worried than Boomers about the ancillary effects of aging, like loneliness, looking older and having less sex, than the actual reality of being able to care for themselves or dementia.
So, what does all of this mean?
For Gen Xers, these data serve as a wake-up call! We’ve learned that Gen Xers want to live long, healthy lives beyond today’s life expectancy, but they reported they are not taking the proven steps to address their health, like seeing a doctor, maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress. But, in order for Gen X to change their behaviors, the solution needs to be simpler. Healthcare has to be simpler, personalized and streamlined. That’s where MDVIP comes in.
With MDVIP, our focus first and foremost is prevention. MDVIP-affiliated doctors work with their patients to develop a personalized plan—it’s a plan created by a physician who really knows them. We hear our doctors say regularly that if they are able to work with a relatively healthy 40-year-old, the ability to affect their health in the future is unlimited.
Across the board, our patients have lower rates of chronic disease and hospitalization. And, working with a primary care physician to make a plan is the critical factor, like an MDVIP doctor who can take the time to fully understand the needs of each patient – from genetic testing to diet, sleeping habits and stress levels.
My recommendation to Gen Xers: Make an appointment with a primary care physician who you trust to find out your risk for diseases and find out how your lifestyle affects your health. Gen Xers, take a lesson from the Baby Boomers – make a plan now to achieve your goals of living a long, active and healthy life.
1. Mortality in the United States, 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db267.htm. Accessed on January 26, 2017.
2. Chronic Disease Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm. Accessed on January 26, 2017.