Business Group Blog

The Battle of the Bulge: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Obesity in millenials

Data shows that the prevalence of obesity almost doubles between pre-adolescence (17% among 6 to 11-year old children) and young adulthood (34% among 20-to 39-year old adults).

What comes to mind when you think about the health and well-being needs of the young adults in your workforce? Assistance with student loan debt, ample paid time off and community service opportunities might immediately strike you as important, but what about preventing excessive weight gain? If helping millennials fight the battle of the bulge doesn’t immediately surface as a pressing need, you’re not alone. According to Dr. William Dietz, young adults have largely been ignored when it comes to the prevention of overweight and obesity. However, recent research shows that targeting this particular age group is critical to fighting the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Consider this: Data shows that the prevalence of obesity almost doubles between pre-adolescence (17% among 6 to 11-year old children) and young adulthood (34% among 20-to 39-year old adults). And excessive weight gain, defined as approximately 45 pounds or more, occurs most frequently during this timeframe.

Excessive Weight Gain Among Young Adults
Image credit: STOP Obesity Alliance

Employers can help millennial employees avoid excessive weight gain in several ways:

  • Consider employees’ life cycle and their day-to-day work experience in the planning and promotion of programs and benefits.
  • Revisit onboarding practices with an eye to how health and well-being programs and policies can be highlighted and encouraged from the first day of employment.
  • Encourage young adult employees who may be on their own health plan for the first time to name a primary care physician and undergo routine visits. One of the major challenges associated with the prevention of weight gain in young adulthood is that many young adults (especially men) feel healthy, have no medical problems, and thus have no reason to see their physician.
  • Target relevant health and well-being information to employee resource or peer groups that are largely comprised of young adults.
  • Tie healthy activities to a cause (e.g. for every pound of weight lost, a pound of food is donated to a local charity) since one of the hallmarks of this generation is their investment in philanthropy.

Members—for additional ideas on how to help employees manage their weight, see resources below: