Mental Health of Children and Young People: Is it all doom and gloom?
The last few years, with the impact of the global pandemic and the financial squeeze due to rising costs, have had a significant impact on us all, but young people in particular have been vulnerable, bearing the brunt of lower wages, higher expenses and increased insecurity of what the future may hold for them. A study by the Co-op and Barnardo’s (Youth Opportunities Tracker: Fairer Futures) found that having enough money to cover basic needs has become the most common aspiration for 9 in 10 (89%) young people, overtaking other traditional goals such as having a dream job or buying a house.
The latest survey from the Mental Health of Children and Young People series (2023)
, asked young people aged 17 to 25 about their or their household’s current financial situation. The survey found that young people are facing financial anxiety as living costs continue to rise: 48.2% of young people aged 17 to 25 years were worried about money. Financial worries were more apparent for young women (58.8%) than young men (37.9%).
According to the report, worries about finances were exacerbated by the young person’s mental health and wellbeing. 7 in 10 young people with a probable mental disorder were worried about money, compared with just 4 in 10 unlikely to have a mental disorder.
Despite worries about money, the majority of young people reported that they or their household could afford a range of essentials and activities. However, some young people reported cutting back on non-essential activities such as sports, days out or socialising with friends (13.7%). A minority of young people reported not being able to afford a healthy, balanced diet (11.2%), the right clothes, shoes or equipment (7.9%) or having access to transport for their daily life (5.5%).
The findings suggest that although these financial pressures are very much current and present, young people were optimistic about the future. 1 in 2 young people aged 17 to 23 years felt optimistic about having enough money for the future and a further 2 in 3 felt positive about having somewhere secure to live in the future.
The report highlighted how young women’s perceptions about the future differed to that of young men. Young women were less optimistic about having enough money than young men (38.5% compared with 60.5%).
The study reveals
, positive feelings about the future seemed to diminish for those with poor mental health. Young people with a probable mental disorder were less likely to feel optimistic about having somewhere secure to live (42.2%) compared to those unlikely to have a disorder (76.9%); 30.9% of young people with a probable mental disorder felt optimistic about their job prospects, compared with 70.2% of those unlikely to have a mental disorder; and 21.5% of young people with a probable mental disorder felt optimistic about having enough money, compared with 61.1% of those unlikely to have a mental disorder.
From these findings it is clear that acknowledging and addressing mental health challenges could contribute to creating a more optimistic generation. For many young people, despite the current challenges, there is resilience and positivity for their futures.