Research by The Prince’s Trust suggested the experience of young people not in education employment or training is more negative than those in work and training.
The youth charity said its survey of 2,180 people aged 16 to 25 across the UK indicated that that more young people are feeling anxious than in the 12-year history of the study.
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One in four respondents said they felt “unable to cope with life” since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40 per cent among those not in work, education or training.
Half of 16 to 25-year-olds said their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.
Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust said: “The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“They face a disrupted education, a shrinking jobs market and isolation from their friends and loved ones, and as a result, too many are losing all hope for the future.
“As ever, it is unemployed young people, and those with few qualifications and little confidence, who have an even more negative experience.
“At this critical time, we need businesses, government, and individuals to work with us to help as many vulnerable young people as possible.
“It is only by working together that we can stop this generation of young people giving up on their futures – and themselves.”
More than half of those surveyed said it was harder to ask for employment help and a similar number of those out of work said they could not see an end to being jobless.
Emma Taylor, UK people director at Tesco, which helped with the research, said: “The findings of this year’s Youth Index highlight how vital it is to support young people to develop skills and build their confidence, to support their future.
“Through our existing partnerships with The Prince’s Trust and other charities, we have already supported over 40,000 young people in secondary schools to develop essential employability and life skills, such as teamwork and communication.”
Minister for mental health Nadine Dorries said: “I know the pandemic has been incredibly challenging for children and young people and I am absolutely committed to supporting their mental wellbeing.
“Early intervention and treatment is vital, which is why we are training a new dedicated mental health workforce for schools and colleges across the country as well as teaching them what good mental and physical health looks like.
“In September, we launched a campaign through the Every Mind Matters website to raise awareness of the guidance and tools available to support children and young people’s mental wellbeing.
“We are also expanding children and young people’s mental health services through the NHS Long Term Plan to support an additional 345,000 individuals by 2023/24, backed by record investment of an extra £2.3 billion per year.
“I urge anyone who needs support to speak to their GP.”