The combined impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, cost-of-living crisis and decreasing access to support is creating a youth mental health crisis, leaving half of young workers feeling unable to disclose pre-existing mental health conditions to their employers, a report has argued.
The study from the Institute for Employment Studies has looked at the extent of youth mental health and found that 46% of 2,000 young people (aged 16-25) surveyed who had a mental health condition did not disclose this to their employer because of feeling uncomfortable doing so. Female respondents were much less likely to disclose than male peers.
Three in ten had either left a previous job or were planning on leaving their current job as a result of its impact on their mental health (19% and 11% respectively).
Rates for this were higher among those who had an impairment, disability or health condition and among those who specifically had a mental health condition.
More than two-fifths either had a pre-existing mental health condition or challenge when recruited to their job (37%) or started experiencing one after joining (7%).
Satisfaction with individual aspects of job quality did not generally translate into an overall positive impact on youth mental health and wellbeing, the research also found.
Just over half of the young people polled said they felt satisfied at work (51%), and over one-third feel supported (35%) or enthusiastic (35%). Nonetheless, more than a quarter also reported feeling exhausted (27%).
Young people were generally satisfied with the quality of their work (70% average across all factors). However, more than a third reported being dissatisfied with opportunities for career progression (37%), voice and representation (36%), pay (34%), and feeling valued for their work (31%). Crucially, just 30% said they were receiving support to manage their health.
Among a range of recommendations, the IES argued the findings showed employers needed to be stepping up and simply investing more in youth mental health and wellbeing. But it also highlighted the role that government incentives can play in kickstarting this.
“Central government should support employers with limited resources to invest in providing a better and wider range of health and wellbeing support in the workplace. This can be done through funding for SMEs, to support mental health training for managers, and improve access to services such as occupational health and employee assistance programmes,” the IES said.
Lead author for the study, research fellow Cristiana Orlando, said: “Young people are struggling to make transitions to the labour market and, for those who do, work may not be having the positive impact on their wellbeing that supports them to thrive.
“These challenges raise concerns about the longer-term impact on young people’s future health, and wider life outcomes, as work is a key social determinant of health.
“Furthermore, with a third of young people reportedly leaving jobs because of mental health challenges it raises important questions for employers and policymakers alike, in the face of ongoing labour market shortages and skills and recruitment challenges, with implications for retention and the development of stronger talent pipelines,” she added.