Nationwide Retirement Institute® Survey Reveals Millennials and Gen Xers Feel the Impact of COVID-19 on Physical and Financial Health

Nationwide Retirement Institute® survey reveals Millennials and Gen Xers feel the impact of COVID-19 on certain aspects of their physical and financial health, but most aren’t taking steps to prioritize their wellbeing

HR Technology News: Paycor Announces New Compensation Planning Solution

Social isolation resulting from the pandemic has impacted some Americans’ mental (45%) and physical (40%) health, with many worrying more now about their family’s health (74%) and financial stability (62%) than they did before. Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely than Boomers+ to feel these impacts, saying they worry more now about their financial stability (71% and 69% vs. 52%), their health (68% and 67% vs. 60%) and death (54% and 53% vs. 38%).

A new Nationwide Retirement Institute® survey conducted by The Harris Poll in May 2020 reveals over half of Millennials (52%) and Gen Xers (57%) have had certain aspects of their health and/or finances directly impacted by the pandemic, compared to 37% of Boomers+. In addition, nearly 2 in 5 Millennials (39%) and Gen Xers (37%) say COVID-19 has already impacted their retirement plans, compared to 1 in 5 Boomers+ (19%).

“Health care costs have long been a stressful topic for Americans, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kristi Rodriguez, leader of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. “In fact, nearly three in four Americans across all generations worry even more now about their family’s health than they did before the pandemic. And all too often, that stress can impact their physical health as well as their mental health.”

Much of this concern, particularly for Millennials and Gen Xers may be connected to the costs associated with health care, given nearly half report their financial health has been negatively impacted by health care costs (46% and 44% vs. 22% of Boomers+). A surprise health scare could also trigger a worse financial situation, since over a quarter of Americans (27%) say they wouldn’t be able to pay off an unexpected $5,000 out-of-pocket medical bill today.

The uncertainty of health care costs in retirement also worries all generations, but especially Gen Xers, with a majority saying one of their top fears in retirement is their health care costs getting out of control (81% Gen Xers vs. 74% Millennials and 71% Boomers+). Most Americans, again especially Gen Xers but also Millennials, are also terrified of what health care costs may do to their retirement plans (70% Millennials, 77% Gen Xers vs. 58% Boomers+), as well as terrified of what a global health care crisis (such as COVID-19) may do to their retirement plans (73% Millennials, 81% Gen Xers vs. 62% Boomers+).

The stress of health care costs could also be worsening younger Americans’ wellness, with 53% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Xers saying some aspect of their life has been negatively affected by financial stress. And about half of Millennials and Gen Xers say social isolation during the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental (55% and 53%) or physical health (50% and 47%), compared to a third or fewer Boomers+ (33% and 28% respectively).


Lack of prioritizing preventative care

While younger generations are more likely to report wanting to do more to prioritize their health (83% Millennials and 85% Gen Xers, compared to 72% Boomers+), they are less likely to have taken the steps to address their health concerns through preventative care. While Millennials and Gen Xers are aware of the benefits these actions can have –most agree that years from now, they’ll say they wish they would have taken better care of their health (67% Millennials, 68% Gen Xers vs. 54% Boomers+) – they are not taking steps to address these concerns.

  • Younger generations are less likely to have received certain preventative care services such as physical or well-checks, preventative screenings, or flu shots or other immunizations in the past year (64% Millennials, 79% Gen Xers, 89% Boomers+)
  • Half of Millennials (52%) and Gen Xers (51%) have done something to save on medical related expenses, most commonly altering a medication regimen (32% and 32%) or delaying or skipping care (30% and 31%)
  • 43% of Millennials and 49% of Gen Xers who haven’t received preventative care say they don’t know why they haven’t

Relying on financial professionals

More than a quarter of Americans (30%) say COVID-19 has impacted their retirement or their retirement plans. Most of those who have financial professionals say they are relying on them more than ever due to COVID-19 (Millennials 79%, Gen Xers 70%, Boomers+ 52%) and about one in four Millennials (30%) and Gen Xers (24%) who don’t have a financial professional say they plan to engage one due to COVID-19.

As the role of financial professionals evolves amid COVID-19, it is crucial to provide guidance around health care costs in and out of retirement with clients. This is especially important for Millennials, with over a quarter (27%) now expecting their financial professional to provide guidance on near-term health care costs. In addition, the average American lacks knowledge about health care costs, with only a third saying they feel knowledgeable about how much they’ll need to cover health care costs in retirement (35% Millennials, 35% Gen Xers, 30% Boomers+).

“Although many adults are concerned about health care costs in retirement or in their later years, many are not having informed discussions with professionals on how to prepare,” said Rodriguez. “Working with a financial professional and taking advantage of online planning tools can help adults both young and old reach their personal goals. In addition, talking about your plan with someone can help ease anxiety and reduce stress during this uncertain time.”

To help financial professionals guide these conversations, Nationwide’s Health Care Cost Assessment tool uses proprietary health risk analysis and updated actuarial cost data such as personal health and lifestyle information, health care costs, and medical coverage. It provides a meaningful, personalized cost estimate that will help financial professionals and clients estimate future medical and long-term care expenses.


The 2020 Nationwide Retirement Institute Health Care survey was conducted online within the United States between May 7-26, 2020 among 1,940 adults aged 24 and over by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Nationwide Retirement Institute.

Respondents for these surveys were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Data are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, household size, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.

HR Technology News: Ceridian Hires Noémie Heuland As EVP, Chief Financial Officer

Write in to to learn more about our exclusive editorial packages and programs.