Young people face a mental health crisis – Economy

They report high levels of depression and anxiety about the impact of the pandemic on their lives.

As a disease, Covid-19 disproportionately affects the elderly: 98% of deaths in the UK have been in their 50s. Young people tend to have mild symptoms, with children and adolescents accounting for less than 1% of hospitalized cases. But when it comes to the measures governments have put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the impact seems to be moving in the other direction.

People under the age of 30 were more likely than their older peers to say they feared their relationships, jobs, education, finances and life plans would be negatively affected by the pandemic. It is probably no coincidence that the mental health of young people also seems to suffer more. One in three young people aged 16 to 34 said they had symptoms of depression in June 2020, compared to one in five in the general adult population.

Poor mental health is obviously bad for your well-being, but it’s also bad for your economic outlook. When you’re not feeling well, you can’t work as effectively (or at all). As a result, your grades and career can suffer, which can impact your ability to find your preferred type of job in the long run.

Societies as a whole also have an economic incentive to try to minimize suffering from mass mental health. When people are not as productive as they could be, the economy produces fewer goods and services (so less wealth is created overall). Their salaries are also generally lower than they might be, which means less taxes for the government to spend on things like hospitals and nurses. And that’s especially concerning when it’s focused on a younger generation, as it’s their taxes that will pay for the pensions and long-term care of the generations above them.

However, it might be difficult to directly address some of the issues that negatively affect youth mental health while maintaining lockdowns and social distancing practices. Young people are less likely to live in a household with their romantic partner and therefore may be physically separated from them during this time. They are more likely to live in crowded or shabby housing that does not lend itself to working from home, and they are more likely to have low-income or low-responsibility jobs that are particularly likely to be made redundant.

However, there is a way to soften the effects some of these issues: investing more public money in things like NHS mental health services or the welfare system.

Read our explainer on: What is a productive life really like?


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