Younger Generation New Health Problems

Young health

Young people are increasingly suffering from ailments more normally associated with the elderly, causing worries for the future health of the working population.

Employee health and wellbeing – the worrying ill-health of younger generations

Young people are increasingly suffering from ailments more normally associated with the elderly, such as back or neck pain, varicose veins and irritable bowel syndrome, research has suggested.

A study by Bupa Healthcare has argued haemorrhoid removal and varicose veins are now two of the most common heart or circulatory surgical procedures for 26-35 and 36-45-year-olds.

Just as worrying, 36-45-year-olds are now the most likely to undergo knee and back procedures.

Multiple arthroscopic knee operations and transforaminal epidurals for back problems were both in the top five most common procedures for this age range in 2015.

This trend is also apparent in younger “millennials”, with multiple arthroscopic operations on knees also being one of the top five procedures amongst the 16-25-year-old category.

There had also been a sharp rise in patient searches on Bupa’s health information site for conditions associated with stress.

Searches for “piles”, “IBS” and “peptic ulcers” increased 2,454%, 1,818%, and 347% respectively in 2015 compared to 2014. Searches for stress itself increased 388% year-on-year.

Sedentary lives and stress

While the precise causes for this are likely to be multiple and complex, the rise in back and neck pain and venous disease may be associated with increasingly sedentary and connected lives and simply bad posture, Bupa argued.

It is estimated treating leg ulcers in the UK already costs the NHS up to £600m a year.

Dr Steve Iley, medical director for Bupa UK, said: “When you consider the amount of time young people now spend, sat using their mobiles and tablets, streaming boxsets or playing with the latest games console, you can see why these conditions are rising in this age group.

“From their early twenties, more and more people are working long hours, with jam-packed schedules, and without the ability to ever really switch off. This, combined with bad postures and lack of movement, are taking their toll physically and mentally.”

The findings also feed into what is building up to being a worrying picture for the future health and wellbeing of our working population.

Not only will employers have to manage the “greying” of the workplace with an increasing population of elderly workers, it may have to be managing an unfit younger population, too.

Younger obesity and diabetes

Already, as Public Health England has argued, as many as eight in every 10 people aged 40 to 60 in England are overweight, drink too much or get too little exercise.

Diabetes and obesity are growing (and of course connected) problems for younger people, with exercise levels often declining well before adolescence.

The government did publish a childhood obesity plan back in January and last year unveiled plans for a sugar tax, which is set to begin from next year.

Clearly, this is a serious societal issue that will require a societal response, encompassing political and public health leadership.

Employers can, and should, play their part in terms of health promotion and education, both in the workplace and in terms of engaging younger generations and working with schools.

However, if our young future workforce is already storing up health problems for the future, perhaps even before they get to the workplace, that is going to be a serious challenge in future decades, and a challenge for which there are no easy answers.

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Posted in Occupational health by OH Assist on the 25th April 2017

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