A generation out of control: Overall wellbeing of young people falls to an all-time low

A new report from the Prince’s Trust shows that the overall wellbeing of young people in the UK has dropped to its lowest level since the study was launched in 2009. The report reveals that more than a quarter of millennials do not feel in control of their lives, and that a crisis of confidence in their own abilities and future prospects is preventing them from realising their true potential.

What’s particularly shocking about these figures is not so much what they show, but who they apply to and what they say about our society. According to the research, two-thirds of British young people actually claim to be “always” or “generally” happy with their lives. Those who are most unhappy are a small underclass that our society is failing: those not in employment, education or training (Neets).

The Trust’s findings reveal that almost one-fifth of the young Neets feel that life isn’t worth living as opposed to one-tenth of the general population. Similarly, 37 percent of Neets claim to be often or always depressed as opposed to 27 percent of the younger population as a whole.

Furthermore report revealed that there are significant changes between the genders with young women more likely to feel they have no control over their lives than young men. 31 percent of young women do not feel in control of their lives, compared to 26 per cent of young men; 69 percent of young women who do not feel in control of their lives said a lack of self-confidence holds them back, compared to 53 percent of young men; and 55 percent of young women who do not feel in control of their lives said mental health issues make it hard for them to progress in life.

But what are the main factors causing 16-25 year old to be so dissatisfied with their lives?

The political climate

  • The research shows that the current political climate is taking a toll on young people, who feel more anxious about their future in the wake of recent world events. Concerns about these and the possible effect on the economy appear to have had a detrimental impact on the hopes and aspirations of young people – with traditional life goals such as owning a house feeling out of reach – and many are now expecting to be worse off than their parents.

Coping mechanisms at school

  • The research examines young people’s perceptions of how well they coped with problems while they were at school or college. Half (48 percent) experienced problems during their school or college years that prevented them from focusing on their studies.
  • Worryingly, of those who experienced a problem, almost half (46 percent) did not talk to anyone about their situation. This was largely because they did not want anyone to know they were struggling or did not think talking to someone would solve the problem. A staggering 45 percent of young people also said they did not believe in themselves when they were at school.
  • The findings also show that those who received free school meals throughout school or achieved fewer than five A*-C grade GCSEs are more likely to have experienced significant challenges during their school years, are more inclined to self-doubt and less likely to seek help when faced with a problem that distracts them from their studies.

Gender divide

  • Young women are significantly more likely than young men to feel they have no control over their lives or their future and to struggle with feelings of self-doubt.
  • Young women also rank lower on the overall happiness and confidence Index than young men, as they are more likely to feel less happy and confident about their employment prospects, the amount of money they have and their physical and emotional health.
  • Of the 31 per cent of young women who do not feel in control of their lives, 69 per cent said a lack of self-confidence is one of the things that holds them back. More than half of young women said they did not believe in themselves when they were at school.

A brighter future ahead?

The Prince’s Trust wants to help 60,000 young people work towards a brighter future in 2017. Dame Martina Milburn, CEO of the Prince’s Trust, said the organisation wants to help 60,000 young people take steps towards a “brighter future” in 2017.

“The potential consequences of failing to help these young people who are so clearly in need of support have huge implications for our nation’s future. We simply cannot allow them to be paralysed by their circumstances and self-doubt.

“By working with us, you can be a part of the solution to the issues raised in this report and help young people to regain control of their lives.”

For more information about how to support the Prince’s Trust, visit www.princes-trust.org.uk.

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