Q&A: Health Trends By Decade: How You Can Support Employee Health At Each Life Stage

Authored By: | Publish Date: 10/19/2017

Shaun Francis, chair and chief executive officer at Medcan, answers questions about the health conditions associated with different life stages and how employers can support employees at these different stages through their benefits plans.

How do you determine the changes in health conditions as employees age?

Medcan performs thousands of annual health assessments each year and we’re able to draw on this large database of information to analyze the trends in health at different ages. This not only helps us develop health solutions to meet the needs of these different age groups in your workforce, it also helps us recommend prevention and chronic disease management strategies because we know the challenges that lie ahead for each of the groups.

What have you learned from your analyses?

The data confirms that there are clear health trends for each of the decades. For those in their 20s, the top issue is mental health. Anxiety is the most diagnosed condition – affecting six per cent. And depression has been diagnosed in almost three per cent of all clients. Through virtual year-round care, these types of conditions can be diagnosed and psychologist counseling via video offered.

For the 30-somethings, we began seeing the first signs of high cholesterol or triglycerides, at levels that don’t yet require medication. This affects eight per cent of this age category. Here is where we start the conversation about the impact of diet and exercise on cardiovascular health and recommend nutrition counselling and other preventive lifestyle modification support. Skin conditions – like eczema – are also more common, affecting nearly seven per cent of this group, which can also be related to diet.

For clients in their 40s, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease appears as the one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions, affecting almost seven per cent of them. Again, much of this is diet related, so we really trying to encourage younger employees to embrace healthier eating as part of their lifestyle.

And for older employees?

Diagnoses of prediabetes peaks in the 50s, affecting four per cent in that age group, although no medication is typically needed. However, lifestyle changes – such as healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction – can reverse or stop this condition and prevent the onset of diabetes.

For those in their 60s, osteoporosis/osteopenia (loss of bone density) becomes much more common and is diagnosed in six per cent. So in addition to medications, we highlight the importance of diet and weight-bearing exercise to improve bone health.

And for those with ongoing poor lifestyle habits, we start to see the cumulative impact in this age group. The diagnosis of high blood lipid levels (nine per cent), high blood pressure (five per cent), and type II diabetes (2.2 per cent) all rise. At this stage, many require medication to treat their conditions. This is why it is important to provide employees with the right coverage to not only manage chronic conditions but to prevent them in the first place.

How can employers use their benefits plans to keep employees of all ages healthy?

In terms of both prevention and treatment, a healthy lifestyle is key for so many health conditions. So, an effective way to move the needle on health is to provide support for positive lifestyle changes – such as health programs that focus on exercise, stress reduction, and nutrition. Customization is a key trend in personal healthcare, so the use of health spending accounts gives employees the opportunity to select programs tailored to supporting their health needs and lifestyle changes. Preventive screenings, coaching, and convenient access to medical support – such as through virtual visits – are also ways that employers can help employees achieve their best health.

Forward thinking companies can also leverage the latest medical advancements by offering personal genome testing. While governments have age guidelines for screening for certain serious conditions, such as breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, there are certain people who may benefit from getting these tests sooner. Personal genome tests can reveal a predisposition for a number of diseases, many of which can be successfully treated if caught early. Including these simple tests as part of your benefits plan can go a long way to ensuring that your employees most at risk of serious illness receive the early screening that can keep them active, healthy and productive.

 


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