Millennials saw dramatic increases in drug-related, alcohol-induced and suicide deaths in recent decade, data shows

Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 7:41 PM CDT
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Millennials have been called many things, including the “most health conscious generation ever." But now a new data compilation calls alcohol, drug misuse and suicide in the millennial generation a "devastating impact."

"The millennial group can be vulnerable to addictions, suicide and depression," Essentia Health clinical psychologist, Jo Ellison, said.

Ellison says millennials are already seen as a high-risk group when it comes to drug-related, alcohol-induced and suicide deaths.

"What we're finding is it's rising at a rate...that's worth talking about," Ellison said.

New numbers from the nonprofit, Trust for America's Health, and the foundation, Well Being Trust, show alarming increases from 2007-2017.

The data shows a 108 percent increase in drug-related deaths for 18 to 34-year-olds.

"My guess would be that it's related to just the sort of lethality of the types of drugs that are available,” Ellison said, “so we're seeing more opioid use. You're more likely to lead to overdose."

The decade also saw a 69 percent increase in alcohol-induced deaths and a 35 percent increase in suicide deaths.

Samantha Bruers, director of N.D. and S.D. chapters of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says suicide is never caused by just one thing—so it’s hard to pinpoint a reason for the increases.

"Suicide is a complex mental health issue,” she said, “and there's multiple things happening at one time."

Dr. Ellison says millennials are likely becoming higher risk because of the factors at play for their generation.

"With millennials and their student loan debt,” she said, “or their inability to pay for health well as people that are concerned with the larger political issues going on."

Some of these factors are not new—like needing to pay for health insurance once you age out of your parents’ insurance. But:

"It may just be that they are feeling there are more stressers on them at this time,” Ellison said, “maybe financially or with the job market in certain areas."

And while the unemployment rate here in the F-M area is very low, Ellison says underemployment is an issue.

"Certainly people can get jobs in the food industry or retail jobs are available in the community,” she said, “but that's not always what people are trained for."

Social media likely can take its toll as well.

"You're much more able to compare yourself to others and much more able to be rejected by others through that anonymous platform," Ellison said.

Ellison says these numbers highlight what's lacking in our health care system.

"We can always use more mental health providers,” she said, “I think you can see that in our community, we're very low on psychiatry, the wait to get in for psychiatry is very long."

And experts say parents and friends should always keep an eye out for signs of change:

"Changes in talk, behavior and mood," Bruers said.

Bruers adds many who have struggled deeply with mental health issues go on to lead happy, healthy lives. And those in need should seek help immediately.

If you or a loved one needs help, a quick 211 call can connect you to FirstLink. Or you can visit to find suicide support services, a behavioral health guide and more resources.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can be found at

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