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A person's wellness objectives tend to shift from mental to physical health as they age

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Posted at 1:25 PM, Jan 13, 2023

BOISE, Idaho- — If you are on social media or are around teenagers, you have probably heard the terms Millennials, Boomers, and Gen Z, among others. Those terms refer to groups of people born in about the same 15 - 20 year time frame.

For some time, we have noticed and heard about generational group differences impacting various stages of a generation's life. When thinking about personal goals, an individual's generational group might affect the shift in focus between mental and physical health.

"Definitely think both are important, but I think mental health has to come first," said Catie Loegering, who identifies as Gen Z (typically defined as those born between 1997-2012).

Data from the State of Our Health in 2020 revealed that a person's wellness objectives tend to shift from mental health to physical health as they age. When researchers asked people 13 and older to choose between mental and physical health, younger generations tend to prioritize mental health.

Anne Daggett, the licensed clinical social worker for St. Luke, says it varies by person. Young people might enjoy good physical health and focus primarily on mental health. But older adults might favor physical health because they've felt it change as they age.. or because they've been advised to take action by their physician.

"I can't run up that flight of steps as I did when I was 17, so that also contributes to where people are navigating right as adults. We might experience some of those changes," said Daggett.

In my previous report on New Year resolutions, many Millennials (typically those born between 1981-1996) shared the increasing importance of physical health. As these individuals are entering their 30s and 40s, it matches the pattern outlined by Daggett.

"It's awesome to see people here chasing their fitness goals. In the last couple of years, we figured out that health is a big deal, So watching these people come in here and start that journey is really exciting," said Eric Cafferty, who identifies as a Millennial.

The State of Our Health study found that Millennials strive for balance.

"Go to the gym. It's a healthy lifestyle, and you feel good, and if you feel good, every other part of your life just seems to kind of fall into a more positive place," said Lindsey Dial, who identifies as a Millennial.

Daggett says that while we might think of physical and mental health separately, both are equally important to our well-being.

"They actually are very connected. So I think we are coming into this space of recognizing that a little bit differently and encouraging those conversations, "

The data does not necessarily show that one approach or one generation is happier or more optimistic than any other.

It is also important to note that approaches to wellness vary on several social and cultural factors in addition to age.