More than half of young American adults have a chronic health condition

Obesity, depression, high blood pressure, asthma: these are just a few of the chronic diseases currently affecting nearly 40 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, according to new federal data.

Overall, data from 2019 revealed that more than half of young adults (nearly 54%) now struggle with at least one chronic health condition. Almost one in four (22%) have two or more of these conditions, according to a team of researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The most prevalent conditions were obesity (25.5%), depression (21.3%) and high blood pressure (10.7%),” said a team led by Kathleen Watson, from the National Center CDC’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Program.

The study found that high cholesterol levels affected around 10% of adults under 35, asthma over 9% and around 6% had arthritis.

Unhealthy lifestyles were often part of the mix for people with chronic conditions. Young adults “with a chronic disease were more likely than those without to report heavy drinking, smoking, or physical inactivity,” Watson’s team found.

The data is based on telephone surveys conducted in 2019 of more than 67,000 18 to 34 year olds across the United States.

Certain factors seemed to increase a person’s chances of having the main chronic health problem, obesity. For example, about a third of young adults living in rural areas were obese, compared to about a quarter of urban dwellers. Black Americans were slightly more likely to face obesity than whites – 33.7% versus 23.9%, respectively.

Depression tended to affect young adult women more (27%) than men (around 16%), according to the report, and depression rates were particularly high among the unemployed (around 31%).

None of this bodes well for the health of Americans as they age, the CDC team warned.

“Because chronic diseases become more common with age, a focus on prevention and health risk factors across the lifespan is essential,” Watson’s team wrote. They noted that obesity, chronic high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all powerful risk factors for diseases like heart disease and diabetes that can occur later.

All of this means that “addressing health behaviors and intermediary conditions in young adults can help improve long-term health and well-being across the lifespan,” the team concluded.

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