The Mental Health of Young People At Work


18–24 Year-Olds in the UK Workforce Are More Stressed Than Any Other Working Age Group

This Mental Health Awareness Day the theme is young people in a changing world, so we’re looking at young people making one of the biggest changes: entering the UK workforce and getting their careers started.

Mental health problems in young people are on the rise and technology has taken a considerable portion of the blame in most recent years. However, it’s more than just Instagram and Twitter making young people unhappy. A changing workforce and the UK’s unbalanced economy mean that many young people newly entering the workforce do not have the same opportunities as other generations. Young people making the difficult transition into adulthood and into the workforce face vastly different challenges compared to their parents. 

In our recent Employee Benefits Survey, we asked 1,000 UK workers at SMEs a range of questions about their work and work environment. 18-24-year-olds gave some shocking answers to some of our questions – they were the unhappiest, the most likely to agree with the fact that they regularly felt stressed and almost three-quarters of them were looking to change jobs in the next 12 months.

Young People Taking More Time Off To Manage Mental Health

Out of all age groups currently working, young people experience the most stress. When asked if they regularly feel stressed 48.2% of 18–24 year-olds agreed and 16.9% strongly agreed. In addition, more than 1 in 4 people of this age group have taken time off of work for mental health problems at least once in the last 12 months, more than any other working age group.


This could either be because young people are experiencing more mental health problems or because the stigma around mental health is being addressed and young people feel more confident asking for time off to manage their mental health than their older co-workers.

They’re Not Getting Enough Support From Employers

70% of young people that are unhappy in their jobs said that it was because of a lack of opportunities to progress in their career, 50% said that it was due to a lack of support, and 40% said that it was due to a lack of recognition.

It’s easy to see why young people may feel that they aren’t supported when 17% receive less than a single week of sick pay and more than 18% receive absolutely no sick pay at all. This may be because many of them – 56% of gig workers are aged 18-34 according to government data – are working in gig-type jobs or zero-hour contract work.

A lack of sufficient sick pay may be why nearly more than 1 in 3 young people have not taken a single day off sick in the past 12 months. Without the right support, presenteeism is becoming a worrying trend among young employees.

Young People Are More Worried About Money Than Anyone Else

Wages aren’t keeping up with the needs of young people. Rent is high, salaries are low, and young people are struggling to save for their future. This is likely why as much as 73.5% of young people say that money is one of their biggest sources of stress compared to only 33% of UK employees over 55. This is a worrying statistic when you think that most young people when they enter the workforce don’t have much in the way of financial responsibilities to stress about, unlike older employees that more often have to deal with mortgage debt and children. 


However, despite young people’s financial stress, when given the opportunity to choose the employee benefits they want to receive, only 13.6% would choose to have Group Income Protection Insurance paid for by their employer. In comparison, 28.4% of young people would choose to have free snacks in the workplace

Why young people aren’t choosing financial protection is a mystery, but a lack of knowledge about this product may be part of the reason. Based on our 2018 survey results, a lot of people lack understanding when it comes to Income Protection Insurance – 17.2% of UK workers have said that they have never heard of it at all.

What Can Be Done To Help Young People?

Financial insecurities are a major contributor to young people’s stress, but in addition to improved salaries there are some ways employers can step in to alleviate this burden.

  • Permanent contracts over zero-hours for those who want them
  • Sufficient sick pay to take time off when they need it
  • Paying salaries above national minimum wage.

These changes are a good place to start, although an extra benefit to provide young workers is a place on a Group Income Protection policy, which is designed to provide workers with a longer-term income if they can’t work due to illness or injury. These policies will also typically include additional benefits such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), which provide a raft of benefits to employees like counselling helplines and back-to-work support services to help workers get back to work if they’re ill.

Another common stressor for young people is their work and working environment. When asked why they were unhappy in their jobs, 70% said a lack of opportunity for progression was the reason, while 40% said it was down to a lack of recognition.

Employers can take simple steps to improve young people’s happiness in the workplace by addressing these issues. When asked what benefits young people would like to see, the top answer was those that provide education and training and those that promote health and wellbeing. Overall, young people are looking for appropriate support from their employers and evidence that they are a valued member of a business. When young people feel fulfilled by their job and have their finances in order, their mental health is likely to show great improvement.

Tom Conner, Director of Drewberry

There is a lot in our society that needs to be changed to ensure that young people are getting a fair chance at a prosperous future. But, for now, a bit of support from employers is a good place to start.

12.1% of young people in the workplace do not receive any employee benefits, which are usually a great way to support your employees outside of work and demonstrate that you appreciate them. They don’t even have to cost a great deal – some of the most sought-after benefits for young people are those which can be implemented for little to no cost, from flexible working to a casual dress code. Making these small changes to a workforce could make a big difference to the happiness and mental health of any company’s younger workers.

Tom Conner
Director of Drewberry

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