Over the course of the past two weeks, public commentary and news coverage around the Millennial generation has swelled due to the release of numerous reports about our lifestyles. There was also, of course, the matter of that instantly infamous, defiant utterance by one Millennial legislator, “OK, Boomer,” which immediately enflamed the rage of our elders.
While I don’t think the latter point is the one that should have gotten the most attention, I’ll go ahead and start there because that’s what everyone is the most worked up about. I first learned about it in early November, when my friend sent me a link to purchase a bubble gum-colored t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “OK, Boomer” in lavender, Lisa Frank-style lettering.
Having been immersed in the local news cycle rather than the national one for the past week, I had no idea what I was looking at. I was bemused to discover, like most people my age, that the source of the phrase was a meme that had become popularized overnight when Chlöe Swarbrick, a 25-year old legislator in New Zealand, used it to silence a fellow lawmaker who was interrupting her remarks about climate change.
If you haven’t caught on, “OK Boomer” is a catch-all insult meant to dismiss criticisms or remarks made by Baby Boomers. Wikipedia says it is “a pejorative retort used to dismiss or mock perceived narrow-minded, outdated, negatively-judgmental, or condescending attitudes of older people, particularly Baby Boomers.”
Swarbrick’s moment went viral, causing the phrase to gain swift popularity among Millennials and attract ire from the elder set, who view it as ageist. The top executive for AARP, for example, tweeted, as a retort, “OK Millennials, but we’re the people that actually have the money.” Ouch. Thanks for reminding us that Boomers weren’t saddled with student loan debt during a massive recession and as a result earned higher incomes earlier than we have been able to, and, and, and. . .
Personally, I find it a bit amusing, but mostly lazy, as far as insults go. Seems like, if you want to comment on an older person’s attitudes about something you’re passionate about, or about something they have decided to attack you for, you’d be better served by making a fact-based intellectual argument. But I am also an English major and a journalist, so maybe I’m just a nerd about argumentative methodologies. (Can you see me pushing my glasses up my nose?)
Now I’d like to move on to the actual noteworthy news to come out about our generation in recent weeks.
A report by Moody’s Analytics for BlueCross/BlueShield, “The Health of America,” released on November 6, largely focuses on the health of the Millennial generation – and it includes some disturbing findings. Among them: Millennials’ health is declining faster than that of the previous generation, Generation X, as they age. “Health” here includes both physical and mental health, the study noted. As a result, “Without intervention, Millennials could feasibly see mortality rates climb up by more than 40% compared to Gen-Xers at the same age.
Could this explain why, at age 31, I woke up on a foggy morning on November 13 to find that every single one of my joints was hurting? I’ve always joked that I was prematurely aging, but maybe I am not alone! I’m tempted, for a moment, to rejoice. That is, until I consider the facts.
If our projected mortality rates weren’t enough to make me nervous, there’s this: the projected greater demand for health care would, “under the most adverse scenario,” cause Millennials’ treatment costs to spike 33% higher than those of Gen X at a comparable age, per the report.
As a result of poorer health, Millennials could be kept from contributing to the economy to their fullest potential, resulting both in higher unemployment rates and lower income growth. “Under the most adverse set of projections, lower levels of health alone could cost Millennials more than $4,500 per year in real per-capita income compared to similarly aged Gen Xers,” the report states. Areas already struggling with income inequality would likely be hit harder.
Of the top five health issues experienced by Millennials, the highest incidence rate is major depression at 31%, based on data sourced from Moody’s and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. On that note, I would make this observation: this is of importance not just to Millennial individuals, but to the businesses employing them. If you want a reliable workforce going forward, it is important to consider how the workplace can foster a healthier existence for employees. Millennials make up the largest share of the workforce – you have to pay attention to our needs in order to meet yours.
Moving on from health, another report about Millennials got some attention in recent days. On November 11, Buzzfeed News published an analysis of 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data that found that 1.4 million Millennials supported their parents during that year. According to Buzzfeed, the figure was “indistinguishable” from the number of Baby Boomers who reported supporting their adult children in 2016.
The significance of this data is that it busts a myth that Millennials are lazy leeches living in their parents’ basements – rather, just as many contribute to their parents’ wellbeing as the other way around. To add on to that picture, if you are having a hard time believing one source:
- In 2018, an AARP report found that 6.2 million Millennials were serving as caregivers to a parent, in-law or grandparent. AARP reported that 1 in 4 caregivers are Millennials.
- A Wall Street Journal report from the same time period found that such Millennials may be spending as much as 27% more on caregiving than other generations.
So, fine, we might aggravate you over our politics or lifestyle choices, and sure, we might retort with OK, Boomer, but guess what? We’re also going to take care of you. And we’ll probably be lucky to have enough money left over for our more expensive health care as our faster-aging bodies begin to fail us.
I hope you can take your arguments with a side of guilt trip.