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  • Half of young adults are living with a chronic condition.
  • These conditions include obesity, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma.
  • CDC findings show that depression affected 27 percent of young adult women, compared with only about 16 percent of men.

Over half of Americans between 18 and 34 years old are living with a chronic medical condition, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These conditions include obesity, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma. The findings were published July 29 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

According to CDC researchers, data from 2019 show over half of young adults currently live with at least one chronic condition, and nearly one in four lives with two or more.

The study also found for adults under 35 that:

  • High cholesterol levels affected about 10 percent
  • Asthma affected over 9 percent
  • About 6 percent had arthritis

This data was based on telephone surveys conducted in 2019 and included over 67,000 18- to 34-year-olds across the U.S.

“Many of these chronic health conditions are what we call society-driven risk factors,” Dr. Alex Li, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at L.A. Care Health Plan, told Healthline.

“For example, some of the society-driven risk factors include an increased prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle and easy access to processed food,” he continued. “As well as decreased time spent on physical and mental wellness activities.”

The CDC findings show that depression affected 27 percent of young adult women, compared with only about 16 percent of men.

Not surprisingly, depression rates were highest for those who were unemployed, at 31 percent.

Dr. Alex Dimitriu, double board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and founder of Menlo Park (California) Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD, said previous research also finds women’s rate of depression often exceeds that of men.

According to Dimitriu, the reasons for this difference between men and women may be attributed to biological factors that include hormone changes after puberty and post-partum depression.

“All possibly pointing to a hormone-mediated increase in sensitivity to stress, with a possible variation in serotonin sensitivity,” he said. “Psychologically, women have also been found to be more likely to internalize feelings, and have greater sensitivity to interpersonal relationships.”

Li pointed out younger generations are facing higher levels of depression than previous generations.

“It is less clear to me, and probably less well-studied, as to why we have such a high incidence of depression in our Gen Z and millennial or 18- 35-year-old cohort as compared to prior generations,” said Li.

He said his hypothesis is that young adults see a future that is less bright.

“[They] are more likely to be burdened by heavy debt, face an increasing number of existential crises such as global warming, and a host of other factors,” said Li.

Among survey findings was that race and where you live was associated with increased risk for obesity, the leading chronic health condition identified.

According to the CDC report, roughly one-third of young adults living in rural areas were obese, but only about one-fourth of city residents were affected.

Black Americans were also more likely to live with obesity than whites; with almost 34 percent affected, compared to nearly 24 percent of whites.

Dr. Louis Morledge, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, pointed out a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of obesity. According to Morledge, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted activities from outside to inside, and affected lifestyle choices for people.

“Many have spent the past two years indoors, in front of a computer,” he said. “And this age group has experienced the most glaring shift from experiencing social engagement in a variety of educational and professional settings to instead being stationary and alone.”

Morledge said long-term health risks for obesity include hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and some cancers.

“Fortunately, chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, which accounts for about of a quarter of our young adults, is modifiable with lifestyle changes,” said Li.

He explained said it may be possible to reverse some of these conditions by making healthy eating choices, eating smaller portions of food, and increasing our physical activity levels.

Li warned that the life-long impact of chronic health conditions on this age group is “staggering.”

In addition to lifestyle factors that can help lessen the impact of these conditions, there are medications that can help keep cholesterol and high blood pressure in check.

The CDC recently reported that 2019 data shows over half of 18- to 34-year-olds live with at least one chronic health condition.