Generational Shifts in Young Adult Cardiovascular Health? Millennials and Generation X in the United States and England

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2022 May 27;77(Suppl_2):S177-S188. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbac036.


Objectives: To compare cardiovascular (CV) risks/conditions of Millennials (born 1981-1996) to those of Generation X (Gen X; born 1965-1980) at ages 20-34 years, across 2 countries (United States, England), by gender.

Methods: Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (United States) and Health Survey for England, we estimated weighted unadjusted and adjusted gender-specific proportions of CV risk factors/conditions, separately for Millennials and Generation X in each country. We also further calculated sex-specific generational differences in CV risk factor/conditions by income tercile and for individuals with normal body weight.

Results: Millennials in the United States were more obese compared to their Gen X counterparts and more likely to have diabetes risk but less likely to smoke or have high cholesterol. Millennials in England had higher diabetes risk but similar or lower rates of other CV risk/conditions compared to their Gen X counterparts. Generational changes could not be fully attributed to increases in obesity or decreases in income.

Discussion: We expected that Millennial CV risk factors/conditions would be worse than those of Gen X, particularly in the United States, because Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and a period of increasing population obesity. Millennials generally fared worse than their Gen X counterparts in terms of obesity and diabetes risk, especially in the United States, but had lower rates of smoking and high cholesterol in both countries. Secular trends of increasing obesity and decreased economic opportunities did not appear to lead to uniform generational differences in CV risk factors.

Keywords: Diabetes; Gender; Hypertension; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Cholesterol