It’s easy to belittle to the concerns and worries of young people. (*cranky old man voice* “These young ‘uns don’t have it as bad as my day! It’s nothing compared to what we lived through. Now get off my lawn!”)
But a new survey from the Prince’s Trust has found that young people’s happiness across every single area of their lives has dropped dramatically.
The charity released the results of the study, based on a survey of 2,194 respondents aged 16 to 25, as part of its annual UK Youth Index and found that young people’s well-being is at its lowest level since the study was first commissioned in 2009.
Here’s a breakdown of the findings – and why young people are so unhappy:
1. Disillusion with the job market
The report reveals that many young people are resigned to working in dead-end jobs, despite being capable of achieving more.
- 28% working young people feel trapped in a cycle of jobs they don’t want
- 73% of working young people think they are capable of getting a better job
- 54% of all young people believe a lack of self-confidence holds them back
2. Ambitions on hold
Young people are ambitious and have career plans in mind; however, many feel pessimistic about their future success.
- 67% think they could do more with their career than they are currently doing
3. Fading hopes for the future
Because of political and economic uncertainty, worries about the future are playing on young minds and many feel a lack of control over their lives, future careers and finances.
- 44% think there will be fewer job opportunities for their generation in the next three years
- 59% say the unpredictable political climate makes them anxious about the future
4. Well-being and resilience
Young people clearly equate having a job with a number of potential benefits to their overall wellbeing, but can find it hard to stay positive under the pressures of the turbulent job market.
- 49% of young people think that having a job is (or would be) good for their mental well-being, and 61% agree that having a job does (or would) give them a sense of purpose
- 28% young people would not ask for help if they were feeling overwhelmed by something
5. Gender divide
The report highlights significant differences between the views held by young men and those held by young women, particularly when it comes to how they feel about their future prospects.
- Young women are more likely to think they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve success (50% of young women, compared to 34% of young men)
- Young women are more likely to think a lack of self-confidence holds them back (46% men, 62% women)
What young people think
We wanted to find out what genuine, real-life young people thought about all this. So I had a quick chat with Sophia Day – a verified ‘youth’ who also happens to be my sister. She’s 18, just finishing her first year of uni and spoke about the impact of social media on her well-being:
“I think that being surrounded by the social pressures of people’s fake, make-believe lives on social media makes me feel like I need to fit into a certain stereotype. There’s a lot of pressure to achieve as much as the people I idolise in terms of jobs, income and appearance. ”
Sonny Lowe, a 19-year-old uni student, added:
“Many of the points in the survey are true in the way they reflect my thoughts and stresses. Self-confidence is something I’ve always had very little of in my life and I think this is because of the problems my generation faces.
“As a university student, not having enough money is a major problem in my life and something that brings me a lot of stress. And although it’s not a problem in my life currently, the housing market just adds even more feelings of hopelessness; knowing that I may never own my own house.
“The thought of finishing uni just to end up not getting a good job is another worry of mine, especially due to the aggressiveness of the job market.”
So what can we do about it?
Nick Stace UK, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust, says we need to invest in young people’s lives, which makes total sense – especially when you consider the huge generational wealth gap.
The generational wealth gap - it's huge and soared in past decade. Those aged 60-62 had six times the property wealth of 30-32 year olds in 2006-8. That rose to 17 times by 2014-16 - because today's 30-32 year olds had 2/3rds less property wealth than those a decade back pic.twitter.com/BBvtuJyMri— Torsten Bell (@TorstenBell) April 5, 2018
Nick Stace said: “It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people are feeling more despondent about their emotional health than ever before. It is vital that government, charities and employers across the UK invest more in developing young people’s skills and in providing opportunities for them to progress in fulfilling, sustainable careers.
“Underpinning this should be commitments to initiatives that promote positive mental well-being, such as Time to Change, that create a culture of openness and in which young people do not feel like they have to face their problems alone.”