Individuals in their early twenties are more likely to be out of work due to ill health compared to those in their early forties, according to a report.

According to the Resolution Foundation, this marks a “radical departure” from previous trends that indicated the likelihood of not working due to sickness increased with age.

Official statistics indicate a rising trend of poor mental health among the youth.

Growing number of young people out of work

It was found that one in twenty young people (5%) were not engaged in work or education due to ill health in 2023.

Such conditions could negatively affect their education, leading to lower-paid employment or unemployment, the report highlighted.

The report identifies young people as having the worst mental health across all age groups.

This is a significant shift from two decades prior when they exhibited the lowest rates of common mental disorders.

In the period of 2021/22, 34% of individuals aged 18 to 24 reported experiencing symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, a rise from 24% in 2000.

Consequently, over half a million individuals aged 18 to 24 were prescribed antidepressants in 2021-22.

The study reveals a troubling increase in worklessness due to ill health among the young, raising concerns about the impact of illness on young people’s ability to work.

1 in 3 young non-graduates have a mental disorder

Louise Murphy, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation said: “The economic impacts of poor mental health are most severe for young people who do not attend university, with one in three young non-graduates with a common mental disorder currently without work”.

The research indicates that young women are particularly affected, being one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to young men (41% versus 26%).

The study also found that 79% of 18 to 24-year-olds who are not in employment due to ill health possess only qualifications at or below GCSE level.

This is in contrast to 34% of all people in that age group.

Children aged 11 to 14 who experience poor mental health are three times more likely not to achieve five GCSEs, including English and Maths, compared to their healthier peers, according to the report.

Employment and education fundamental to health

Jo Bibby, director of the Health Foundation, said that “good employment and education” are fundamental to health.

The findings of the study primarily derive from the Labour Force Survey, which has been discontinued by the Office for National Statistics due to a decline in participation.

However, the Health Foundation maintains that the data remains sufficiently accurate for their analysis.

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