More people in early 20s out of work from ill health than early 40s - study

Thursday, February 29, 2024

The landscape of workforce participation and health challenges has shifted dramatically, particularly among young adults.

A recent report by the Resolution Foundation has unearthed a striking trend: individuals in their early 20s are now more prone to absence from work due to health issues compared to their counterparts in their early 40s.

This departure from historical norms is indeed noteworthy, reflecting a significant evolution in societal health dynamics. The Resolution Foundation's analysis highlights a concerning surge in mental health issues among young people, a trend corroborated by official statistics.

The report underscores how this surge in mental health challenges among young adults can detrimentally impact their educational pursuits, often culminating in lower-income jobs or unemployment. Shockingly, the report reveals that in 2023, one in 20 young adults were economically inactive due to health issues.

The findings paint a stark picture of deteriorating mental health among young adults, marking a stark reversal from trends observed just two decades prior. Alarmingly, the prevalence of mental disorders among young adults aged 18 to 24 has risen to 34%, a notable increase from 24% recorded in 2000.

Furthermore, the report highlights the concerning reliance on antidepressants among this demographic, with over half a million individuals in the 18 to 24 age bracket being prescribed such medication in 2021-22.

Louise Murphy, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, stresses the economic ramifications of poor mental health, particularly for young adults outside the realm of higher education. She emphasizes that one in three young adults without a university degree and experiencing common mental disorders are currently unemployed.

The report also sheds light on the gender disparity in mental health outcomes, with young women being disproportionately affected compared to their male counterparts. Research indicates that young women are one-and-a-half times more likely to experience poor mental health than young men.

Moreover, the study underscores the correlation between educational attainment and mental health, revealing that a significant portion of young adults facing worklessness due to health issues possess qualifications at the GCSE level or below.

In response to these findings, the Resolution Foundation advocates for enhanced mental health support within educational institutions, aiming to mitigate the adverse effects of poor mental health on academic achievement and workforce participation.

The Health Foundation, which funded the research, emphasizes the importance of addressing the underlying determinants of health, including employment and education, through comprehensive, cross-government initiatives.

Gary Siva, founder of the online mental wellbeing platform Zumos, echoes the urgent need for coordinated action to address the mental health crisis affecting young people in the UK. He highlights the detrimental role of social media in exacerbating mental health challenges among youth and calls for a concerted effort to provide early intervention and support.

While the study's insights are based on the Labour Force Survey, which has faced challenges in participation rates, the Health Foundation maintains the validity of the data for informing their analysis and policy recommendations.