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Young people are now having all the 'old person' medical procedures – excessive stress is probably to blame

Haemorrhoid removal and varicose veins were two of the most common procedures for 25-35 year olds, and those in the 16-25 year old category are suddenly seeing a spike in knee operations

Steve Iley
Thursday 24 November 2016 11:12 GMT
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Analysis out today has shown that all is not right among the younger generations.

The most striking trend emerging from a study which looked at 60,000 operations was the number of young people needing procedures we usually associate with old age. For example, haemorrhoid removal and varicose veins were two of the most common procedures for 25-35 and 36-45 year olds.

Also, 36-45 year olds are now the most likely to undergo knee and back procedures – amd such operations were both in the top five most common procedures for this age range in 2015. Even so-called millennials, those in the 16–25 year old category, are suffering from older generation afflictions, with knee operations also being one of the top five procedures in their age group.

In short, people in their twenties are thirties are becoming old before their time. The big question to come out of this, therefore, is: why?

In my opinion, there’s a common theme that can lead to all these ailments: lifestyle. There are more contributing factors than ever before making people’s lives more demanding. The “always on” nature of our lifestyles has played a part in the emergence of “Generation Stress”. From their early twenties, more and more people are working long hours, with jam-packed schedules, without the ability to properly switch off. When you combine this with bad posture and a lack of movement (say, for example, by sitting in office chairs all day), you can see why this might have a long-term impact on a person’s health.

This age group’s lifestyle is now also significantly more sedentary. People in their twenties should not ordinarily be needing treatment for haemorrhoids or varicose veins, but the increases in people with the conditions are real. We suspect this is also due to people spending so much more time looking at screens: spending their weekends on Netflix, playing with the latest games console or simply spending their evenings (and, in many cases, daytimes) sat using a mobile or tablet are all factors in the rise of these traditionally “older age” conditions.

So what can people do to buck this trend? I think it’s important people in their twenties and thirties hit the “stop” button, take a view of their health and properly assess how they’re feeling. Don’t assume that with no symptoms you’re completely healthy. Don’t assume that you can’t develop back and knee conditions because you’ve only ever seen them in your grandparents.

Because of the pressures of work, many people ignore what they perceive to be minor ailments. But if you do have a persistent niggle, get it checked. It could well be indicative of something more serious and will certainly contribute to stress levels if left. If your body is seeing the signs of strain at 20 or 30 and you’re ignoring it, imagine what it will be like at 60.

It’s just as important not to overlook your mental health. Make sure you check in on how you’re sleeping, your work-life balance and how much time you take to relax and unwind. These effects are on a feedback loop with your physical health.

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It can be tempting to make big, drastic commitments, like a fad diet or deciding to do a 10k run in a few months. But the best changes for your health are sustainable and long-term; for example, picking up a new long-term hobby or slightly changing your diet.

Those in their twenties and thirties have decades of their life ahead of them. Stress shouldn’t be an inhibitor to them living the lifestyle they want to, but it is becoming a serious one. Making a few informed choices about lifestyle can improve and, in some cases, eliminate these “older afflictions” and hopefully, the level of procedures we’re seeing associated with older generations will come down. It’s important you work on turning the tide now.

Dr Steve Iley is the Medical Director of Bupa UK

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