Health has dominated headlines, and our brains, all year — you might feel like a low-key expert on viral load, disease incidence vs prevalence, and other topics you thought were only need-to-knows for epidemiologists. But there’s one big aspect of health and healthcare that we at Nurx think hasn’t been discussed enough: The impact that the pandemic is having on the health of young adults.
Sure, people 18-25, the first of Gen Z to reach adulthood, are less likely to suffer serious health consequences from the coronavirus itself, but the disruption the pandemic has caused to their educational and financial lives is creating different sorts of serious health effects for this group. Particularly when it comes to sexual health needs — like birth control, STI testing, PrEP — this year has created barriers that prevent young adults from accessing very essential care.
School’s Out (Sort Of)
Typically, college students access these services confidentially at on-campus student health centers, but with many colleges switching to remote learning because of the pandemic, health centers may be closed or have diminished capacity, and some students are living away from campus as they take their remote classes. In addition, many college-aged people have had to or chosen to delay their education — freshman enrollment is down by more than 16% — meaning campus health centers are not an option for them.
In college or not, Gen Z young adults are more likely to be living with their parents than any generation since the Great Depression, which may mean less ability to privately access sexual healthcare. As of July, 52% of 18-29 year-olds lived with one or both parents, up 47% since February, an increase of 2.6 million. The growth in young adults living with parents was seen for both men and women from all major racial and ethic groups, and rural and urban locations, though the increase was sharpest for those 18-24.
Beyond the logistical barriers to healthcare created by closed campus health centers and cohabitating with parents, the economic fallout from the pandemic is creating financial barriers for young adults in need of healthcare. Unemployment has increased more sharply for this age group, and 35% of Gen Z people are underemployed, a percentage that goes up to 40% for non-white young people. And a rise in unemployment for all ages means that young people who’ve relied upon their parents’ employer-sponsored health insurance could lose coverage when their parents lose jobs.
Gen Z (Still) Needs Sexual Healthcare
While the pandemic may have made it more difficult for young people to connect to have sex and form relationships, there’s no doubt that they’re still doing it — and they need access to expert information on sexuality and sexual health and affordable, judgment-free care. As a recent Ms magazine article explained, “Expanding access to telehealth can help young people get the care they need, especially since this generation are ‘digital natives’ who are skilled and comfortable online—nearly half say they are online almost “constantly.”
That’s why Nurx has launched a College Health Hub, an online destination where Gen Z can find content created by doctors and sex educators designed to address exactly what they’re going through as they navigate sexual “firsts” and help them access birth control, PrEP, STI testing and other types of personal healthcare.
By allowing young adults to access expert information and connect with licensed medical providers from their computers or phones, Nurx ensures that disruptions to their education plans, living situations, and finances don’t need to get in the way of Gen Z obtaining essential sexual healthcare, this year or any year.