(NEW YORK) — Progress in women’s health since the 1960s is backsliding, with millennial and Gen Z women facing heightened risks to their physical well-being and safety compared to their moms or grandmothers, according to a report released on Thursday by the Population Reference Bureau.
The analysis, which looked at how women in their 20s and early 30s fared across generations, found that women born after 1981 are more likely to be at risk of suicide, death in childbirth and being murdered than young women in previous generations.
The findings come even as younger generations of women are also more likely to have access to better educational opportunities and higher pay than their parents, according to the report.
“Young women today are obtaining college degrees and entering the workforce in record numbers to achieve their generation’s version of the American Dream. But structural barriers to health and safety are preventing many of them from reaching their full potential,” said Diana Elliott, vice president for U.S. programs at the Population Reference Bureau.
As reasons for why millennial and Gen Z women are struggling more, the organization cited the rise of harmful social media content, the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased political divisions and rising inflation. It also blamed restrictions on reproductive health access for young women, including state abortion restrictions.
The report defines millennials as born between 1981 and 1999; Gen Z are born 2000 and later.
“Increased rates of suicide and homicide, and a lack of access to health care services like safe abortion, have the combined effect of reversing the health and safety gains women of previous generations experienced, especially women of color,” said Elliott.
The Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization that partners with the U.S. Census Bureau to examine issues of gender and poverty, is funded by several philanthropies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MacArthur Foundation.
Among the most startling findings in the new report is the jump in suicide rates compared to past generations. When baby boomers were teens back in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the suicide rate was 3 girls per 100,000. Now, Gen Z female teens experience an unprecedented rate of 5 per 100,000, according to the report.
Deaths in childbirth have also soared, the analysis found. Maternal mortality among millennial women is some 30 deaths per 100,000, compared to 19 maternal deaths per 100,000 just a decade ago.
On the upside, women are significantly more likely to get a college degree, according to the report — nearly 44% of millennial women compared to 28% of Generation X women. Incarceration rates are also declining for the first time in 50 years among women.
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