Youth Employment in the UK Held Back by Mental Health Issues


United Kingdom youth unemployment has surpassed half a million in just four years. Over 560,000 individuals between the ages of 16 and 34 were unemployed in the first quarter of 2023, according to newly published statistics from the UK’s Office for National Statistics. The Guardian reports that professionals have attributed the alarming figures to an intensifying mental health crisis. Rising economic inactivity (defined here as not working or actively seeking employment) is also attributed, according to them, to a lack of funding for health care.

More than 560,000 people in the United Kingdom, aged 16 to 34, are unemployed, casting a shadow over the country’s youthful workforce. The Office for National Statistics released this statistic, which shows that a generation is struggling with a mental health issue that is limiting their employment opportunities. Authorities are raising red flags, blaming a confluence of causes for the shockingly high teenage unemployment rate. The Guardian points to the underfunded and unapproachable healthcare system as a major cause of the recent uptick in mental health issues. The disturbing reality revealed by the Health Foundation’s analysis is that the prevalence of mental health disorders that hinder employment among young people now is comparable to that of a decade ago.

British Medical Association Board of Science head and University of Exeter professor David Strain attributes poor population health in large part to underinvestment in the public health sector. People are facing difficulty in gaining access to mental health care. He said that national health care prioritizes treating illnesses above promoting wellness. There is no longer a national health service; instead, there is a national illness service. Instead of focusing on preventing illness, we are concentrating on curing patients. Additionally, necessary mental health treatments have been inaccessible to the public.

Illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and “bad nerves” prevent these young individuals from entering the labour. The crisis’s structural causes are laid plain by prominent UK healthcare expert Professor David Strain. As an important cause, he cites “12 years of underinvestment in the public health sector” and expresses his dismay at how the National Health Service has become a “national disease service” that prioritizes curing illnesses rather than preventing them or providing necessary mental health assistance.

According to a study conducted by the Health Foundation, individuals in the age bracket of 16 to 34 were “as likely to report a work-limiting condition as someone aged 45-54 years 10 years ago” in the past. In a separate investigation, the ONS labour force surveyed persons in the age bracket of 16 to 34 and discovered that 36% of them have mental health issues. Although the pandemic’s aftereffects might be a factor, experts stress that this isn’t an unprecedented occurrence. Unemployment due to mental health issues has almost doubled since 2012, according to research by the Health Foundation. This trend is worrisome since it precedes the epidemic.

Mental health issues have always been a concern, according to researchers who have noted their impact in the wake of the epidemic. They claim to have been a part of a larger trend that began in 2012 and has continued for over ten years. Prompt and determined action is required to address this situation. Mental health services in the United Kingdom desperately need more resources and easier access. To help young people overcome mental health obstacles and succeed in the job, early intervention and preventive actions are crucial.

Disregarding this hidden pandemic will lead to devastating outcomes for both these people and the future of our country. A generation is being kept captive by its thoughts; we must take immediate action to end this pattern, make mental health a priority, and release their full potential. The vital problem of mental health affecting young employment in the UK is the focus of this essay, which seeks to bring attention to it. It aims to promote change by drawing attention to the facts, the root reasons, and the critical need for immediate action.

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