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Millennials: Behavioural strategies for health enhancement

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The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not’ Mark Twain.
Millennials refers to the younger generation. It is the particular cohort, which reaches young adulthood in this 21st Century. Globally, they are recognised as the largest living generation. Of Nigeria’s 180 million population more than half is said to comprise of the millennials. This is a huge and significant cohort, which will attract attention in any matter or issue.

Consequently, the health status of this younger generation should be a matter of great concern to themselves, families, friends, institutions and governments. We all know that health is wealth. Health affects and actually determines the level of people’s productivity.

There are some peculiar existential factors, which affect the health of every age group and particularly the millennial. Adopting appropriate behavioural strategies will enhance the health status of this younger generation.

Drugs
Let me begin with the issue of Drugs. Without mincing words, drug is one of the major issues, which confront millennials to their face. The right behavioural attitudes for this younger generation towards drugs should be to use the professional services of doctors and pharmacists by following prescriptions. In other words, the younger generation should desist from engaging in the negative attitudes of self-medication, misuse of drugs or involvement in illicit drugs. We all know that it is a herculean task to achieve these noble goals. Only a few months ago, the Nigerian populace was thrown into a rude shock by the knowledge of the habitual misuse of codeine among primary and secondary school students. Some national dailies reported that the government recalled about 2.4 million bottles of codeine cough syrup.

Sex
The issue of sex education is central to the health of the millennials. The wrong attitudes to sexuality and sex education include, ignorance, promiscuity, becoming a carrier of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) or ending up in childhood pregnancy. All these are indices of poor health conditions.

Consequently the appropriate behavioural strategies available to raising a healthy younger generation would involve providing quality education, supervision, counselling and enlightenment services for the millennials. Parents and other adults should desist from engaging in such wrong attitudes like negligence, lack of trust, judgmental spirit and pessimism towards the younger generation.

Diet
Beyond all doubts, we all know that diet and health are closely related. People are as healthy and strong as their diets. However many millennials, are actively and addictively engaged in wrong diet and drinks from the consumption of junk foods, preoccupation with unhealthy staple meals to the development of eating disorders (such as Anorexia and Bulima nervosa, purging disorder). These are agencies of diseases and disorders among millennials. To obtain and maintain good health, the younger generation should develop positive feeding habits such as eating balanced diet, minimising intake of processed food and drinks.

Hygiene
A significant percentage of millennials struggle with the issues of personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness. Those who enjoy quality health must learn to take up the responsibility of maintaining personal and environmental cleanliness. Obviously to achieve this requires adjustment in personal lifestyle.

Electronic Devices
There exists a litany of decisions that confront millennials in the area of the use of electronic gadgets, which can mar or enhance their health status. Contemporarily, social media channels have multiplied with leaps and bounds. From Facebook, Twitter, Messenger to Instagram, the Social Media has been a monstrous and mercilessness oppressor of many lives (and not only the younger generation). The demands and dangers to health are counted in terms of misuse, addiction, and control of lives. Of course, the term Internet bullying has become a common phenomenon, which is causing harm and hurt not only to the health of millennial but inevitably posing as a serious source of danger to their success in academics, career, business and even leisure or rest.

Behavioural Strategies
Consequently, there needs to be a reversal from this destructive trend of the misuse of electronic gadgets and social media. The appropriate behavioural strategies which will enhance good health among millennials include, self-discipline, use of accountability partners and mentors and supervisory functions by significant others at home and school. The acquisition of self-discipline is so central and crucial to success in life that, Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth (26th) president of America once said that, ‘with self discipline, most anything is possible’.

In agreement with this idea, which shows the potency of self control, Mark Twain the renown American written at the opening quote noted that, the only way to keep your health is “to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” Not only millennials but most others find it extremely difficult to obey this rule. This inability to discipline one’s physical, mental and emotional appetites is a major reason why various diseases are ravaging many people’s lives. The converse is true. Observing rules like using electronic gadgets in a well lit place instead of a dark place, disconnecting mobile phones and laptops from active data, use ear phones instead of direct use of the mobiles are a few practical ways of making positive adjustments in order to enhance good health.

Several factors such as adventurism, peer group pressures and inferiority complex can (and do) drive millennials into such harmful habits like smoking and the misuse of alcohol. Effective behavioural strategies which will enhance the health of the younger generation in this aspect would include, engaging them in relevant education and enlightenment campaigns, the use of reward for compliance to rules and sanction against disobedience, as well as the use of role models to effectuate behaviour change.

Generally, it does seem that many millennials are engaged in sports and games. However, this is unsubstantiated, because many that are actually involved in sporadic sports and game activities, are uncoordinated and are seasonal in their engagement. However, the type of involvement in sports and games that enhance quality health is carried our regularly, using appropriate regimen and with achievable targets.

One of the terrible consequences of addiction to electronic gadgets and social media is the strangulation of outdoor activities. Consequently, involvement in sports and games will combat loneliness in leaps and bounds. A huge percentage of the younger people are victims of this monster. With the incidence and increase in loneliness comes increase in psychological disorders such as depression, anti-social behaviours and eventually a corresponding increase in criminal behaviours. There exists a great need to get the younger generation to get involved in regular outdoor sports and games. They can be motivated to engage in different forms of competitions, which enhance both their physical and psychological well-being.

Research results show that, there is an increasing trend in the incidence of psychological disorders among the younger generation today than in the past. One opinion has it that students suffer five times today more mental disorders than they did ten (10) years ago. The reasons include all reasons adduced in this discourse. Other reasons are that about 93% of millennials don’t schedule preventive health care visits to doctors, and about 42% of them would rather cancel their health visit for other matters they consider more important than their health.

In summary, the physical and psychological (mental and emotional) health of millennials would be predicated on their ability to adjust to acquiring appropriate healthy habits such as self-discipline, engaging in health education and enlightenment programmes, regular exercise, eating balanced diet as well as adopting adequate rest regimen. Therefore, every segment of the society that the millennials relate with should form a united front in helping the former to achieve living a quality healthy lifestyle.

These groups include, the family, educational, religious, health and media institutions. Very remarkably too, the various arms of government should play significant roles to help the younger generation live healthy. This is so crucial because this group of younger generation is the future and measure of success of our nation. May we all arise and play the men for our younger generation.
• Dr. Amaraegbu is a clinical
psychologist. He can be reached at drpassy@yahoo.com


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