One in five 16–25-year-olds miss school or work due to poor mental health, harrowing report shows, as charity calls for urgent support

Young adults are struggling to cope with their mental health as a new study shows their happiness is at an all-time low

young female adult struggling with mental health looking out of window with hand on her head
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One in five young adults reportedly struggled with poor mental health, so much so that they missed school or work in the last year because of it, a new study has found.

The teenage years of child development are supposed to be among the hardest, so when young adults find themselves suffering from anxiety or depression, it can take its toll. A kid shared his teenager worries in a heartfelt video earlier this week, and if you're a parent of teens, you might have already asked yourself 'Why won’t my teenager talk to me anymore?' as you try and fathom out what's wrong.

The Prince’s Trust helps tens of thousands of young people each year to build the confidence and skills they need to realise their potential. Three in four young people on Prince’s Trust programmes move into work, education or training. 

A recent survey carried out by The Prince's Trust NatWest Youth Index 2024 discovered that 18 per cent of youngsters did not apply for jobs because of a mental health issue. In addition, they (21 per cent) admitted that their mental health worsened in the last year.

But that's not all, young people's happiness with work, education, qualifications and money has hit an all-time low since polling began in 2009. The YouGov survey of 2,239 adults between November 23 and December 14, showed one-fifth (21 per cent) missed school or work in the past year due to their mental health.

Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust said: “This year’s report shows that rising rates of poor mental health are significantly impacting young people’s education and early careers. This is leading to a vicious cycle where poor mental health is having a negative impact on young people’s work, yet being unemployed has a negative impact on their wellbeing – this is a deeply concerning trap.

“We must work together to address this trap, where poor mental health and employment struggles exacerbate each other or risk it closing in on a generation. Urgent support is needed from partners, governments and employers, to help young people break this cycle.”

woman leaving an office with her belongings in a box

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the study also showed more than a quarter of those questioned (29 per cent) said they worried their current employer would not support them if they experienced a mental health problem, and one in ten unemployed young people had left work in the past 12 months because of a mental health issue.

Sandi Royden, head of Youth and families at Natwest, said, "These findings show that we should not underestimate the impact the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have had on the daily lives of our young people, their financial confidence and their future aspirations. They also highlight the resilience of the next generation with so many feeling determined to achieve their goals in the face of these challenges.

She added, "Through our partnership with The Prince’s Trust, we are able to better understand the needs of young people and take the right action through initiatives like NatWest Thrive, to help them to improve both their financial well-being and future confidence, to better equip them to achieve their goals."

In other family news, calling all parents of teens – this acronym might save your sanity (and you’re going to want to tell your friends about it) and Puberty in girls and boys: How to help your kids deal with puberty

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)