Young people’s mental and emotional health


This report from UK think tank EPI looks at Generation Z and what do we know about their mental health.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) and The Prince’s Trust have published a major study on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in Generation Z. Based on data from the Millennium Cohort Study, and supported by Tesco, the report reveals new insights into the determinants of young people’s wellbeing, including how it is affected by their relationships, background, and use of social media. The study examines the personal experiences of young people in England, at age 11, 14 and 17. This is supplemented by focus group responses from November 2020. The research shows that while the wellbeing of all young people declines by the end of their teenage years, there is a strong gender divide within this: girls see far lower levels of wellbeing and self-esteem than boys – driven by a sharp fall of both during mid-adolescence. Girls experience more depressive symptoms than boys – such as feeling worthless or hopeless – while they are also more likely to feel unhappy about their physical appearance. The proportion of girls that feel unhappy about their appearance rises considerably between age 11 and 14, from 1 in 7 to around 1 in 3. Social media also plays a key role for the generation of “digital natives”, with the new findings showing that very frequent use has an adverse effect on the wellbeing of boys and girls, along with the self-esteem of girls. Based on the new findings, researchers determine that the experience of the pandemic is likely to continue to exacerbate existing mental health and wellbeing problems among young people. National estimates show that 1 in 6 young people now have a probable mental illness – up from 1 in 9. While school closures were necessary in order to ensure the safety of pupils, with positive mental health outcomes closely linked to relationships and social experiences in the school environment, researchers fear that the increased isolation seen over the last year risks causing long-term damage to the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of young people.

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