Posted: Mon 26th Feb 2024

New approach needed for mental health epidemic among young people with lower qualifications

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Latest research by the Resolution Foundation has cast a spotlight on Britain’s growing epidemic of poor mental health, particularly among young people with lower qualifications.

The comprehensive study, titled “We’ve Only Just Begun,” funded by the Health Foundation, delves into the intricate relationship between young people’s mental health and their work outcomes, urging policymakers to take decisive action.

For the first time, young individuals are more susceptible to common mental disorders (CMDs) than any other age group, marking a drastic shift from two decades ago.

The economic fallout from this crisis disproportionately affects young non-graduates, with a staggering one in three currently out of work due to mental health issues.

This trend is not only a health concern but also a significant economic barrier, limiting young people’s future prospects.

In the years 2021-2022, over one-third of young people aged 18-24 reported symptoms of CMDs such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, an increase from one in four in 2000.

This has led to more than half a million 18-24-year-olds being prescribed antidepressants in the same period.

The rise in mental health problems among this demographic is now a dual crisis, affecting both their health and economic participation.

The report illuminates a critical gap in the focus on mental health issues, which often centres around universities.

However, the economic impact of poor mental health is significantly harsher for those who do not pursue higher education.

Among young non-graduates with CMDs, one in three find themselves without work, compared to 17% of their graduate counterparts with similar mental health challenges.

A shocking 79% of 18-24-year-olds who are out of work due to ill health possess only GCSE-level qualifications or below.

This stark statistic underscores the crucial role education plays in mitigating the economic effects of poor mental health among young people.

The Resolution Foundation’s report calls for a multi pronged approach to this crisis, advocating for increased mental health support in compulsory education settings, particularly colleges and sixth forms.

Despite the dire need, last year saw only 44% of children and young people in secondary schools or post-16 settings having access to Mental Health Support Teams.

The report also highlights the dismal success rates for students resitting GCSE English and maths, urging for a significant overhaul in support for these individuals.

Additionally, it points to the need for employers, especially in sectors like retail and hospitality where a third of young employees report mental health problems, to adopt better management practices and mental health training.

Louise Murphy, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“With more than one-in-three 18-24-year-olds now experiencing a common mental disorder, urgent action is needed. Alongside work to address the root causes of this epidemic, we need to ensure that young people’s future prospects are not blighted by their mental health problems.

“Attention on this issue has tended to focus on higher education, but what should most worry us is when poor mental health comes together with poor education outcomes. The economic consequences of poor mental health are starkest for young people who don’t go to university, with one-in-three young non-graduates with a common mental disorder currently workless.

“To address this mental health crisis, we need better support services in currently underserved colleges, and much better provision for those resitting exams so that everyone has qualifications to build on.

“Employers also have a part to play, because the quality of managers in sectors like retail and hospitality is key to more young people with poor mental health staying in the world of work.”

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said:

“The increase in the incidence of mental illness in young people is one of the greatest health challenges we currently face. It is already directly impacting the health and well-being of millions of people. Also, it represents a major challenge to economic and public spending through the social security system and pressure on the NHS.

“Moreover, the consequences of mental illness are not felt equally. This valuable report draws attention to the stark inequalities for those who experience mental health problems, undermining people’s ability to get the qualifications they need, and people with fewer qualifications are far more likely to be out of work because of mental illness.

“Policymakers need to focus on the building blocks of health, such as good employment and education, to ensure young people get the support they need and have the tools to move through the world as adults. Without concerted cross-government action, we risk creating a ‘lost generation’ due to ill health.”

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