Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and from Resolution Foundation in May points to two interconnected crises that are developing for young people since the start of the pandemic: mental health and career prospects.
Due to increased chances of being on furlough, unemployed and losing out on new career prospects, young people are reporting being more “pessimistic about their immediate financial future than other age groups” according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
The research from IFS found that the number of adults between the ages of 19-24 who are not working has increased by 25% since the start of the pandemic, which is much higher than the increases they have seen for older age groups.
This same research also found that for these young workers, earnings growth for those who have continued to work has been consistently lower than before the pandemic.
This is a cause for particular concern as it suggests an effect that might be significantly more long-term.
Accordingly, a report by Resolution Foundation, supported by the Health Foundation, a link between employment and this same age group being the hardest hit mental health conditions has been found.
Resolution Foundation reported that “over one-in-three people aged 45 and under have reported having a mental disorder in January 2021” and that the highest incidences of this are in the age bracket between 18 and 21 (40%).
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As the IFS noted in their research published on the 5th of July, the pessimism many young people feel towards their futures is sure to be adding to these high levels of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression or common mental disorders (CMDs).
It is unsurprising that losing your job can impact your mental health. However, it isn’t only those who became unemployed that this research found were severely impacted, especially as it related to their mental health.
Job security is also a huge factor
With many young people working in retail jobs, hospitality and agency work that sometimes offers temporary or even zero-hour contracts the Foundation found that these young people were even more likely to report mental health problems.
The Foundation notes this as a particular area for concern as the number of young people on insecure contracts has increased by 66% between 2000 and 2019.
This double crisis of unemployment and mental health is sure to have a delayed impact and so work needs to be done now to safeguard these young people’s mental health, first and foremost.
Xiaowei Xu an author of the IFS report and Senior Research Economist said, “We know that shocks early on in people’s careers can have negative effects on their future job prospects. Without effective support, there is a risk that young people today will bear the scars of the recession.”
Echoing the same sentiments from the IFS, Resolution Foundation outline that the extension of the Kickstart Scheme and an influx of funding into mental health care and support for young people in this immediate period as we exit the pandemic is essential.
Rukmen Sehmi, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the foundation said of their research, “Young people are facing a double jobs and mental health crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic. These two crises are linked too, with young people who have lost their jobs most at risk of experiencing mental health problems…Worryingly, experiencing these mental health problems today can harm young people’s employment prospects in the future too.”
“It is essential therefore that as we emerge out of the pandemic the Government intensifies its efforts to get young people back working, and provides the right support for anyone suffering with mental health problems.”
This research should be a call to action to the government, who so far have laid out plans that may take up two years to fully implement, to seek to address these issues now: the most pertinent of which is making mental health services for young people accessible.