One in four millennials show signs of poor mental health, study finds

28 June 2017

 

Psychological problems are on the rise for young adults, with greater numbers reporting poor mental health in their mid-twenties than during adolescence.

Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies analysed information on more than 7,700 people from across England who were born in 1989-90 and are taking part in a study called Next Steps.

At age 25, a quarter (26%) reported symptoms of poor mental health, compared to only 19 per cent at age 14 and 22 per cent at 16 years old. Women were slightly more likely to report psychological problems than men.

Those who reported mental ill health during adolescence tended to have psychological problems later on. Young adults who reported poor mental health at 16 had double the odds of experiencing psychological problems in their mid-twenties. 

However, people’s behaviour and lifestyle also appeared to have an impact on their mental health. Those who slept for six hours or less a night were twice as likely to report psychological problems compared to those who had nine hours or more. Moreover, people who exercised less than once a month had greater odds of reporting poor mental health than those who exercised at least once a week.

After taking into account background factors, such as ethnicity, general health, body mass index, sleep and exercise there were no differences in levels of mental ill health between people from different ethnic groups or those from different social classes.

Lead author, Dr Morag Henderson said: “Young adults are facing more stressful conditions than older generations, such as an increasingly competitive labour market, rising costs of housing, an increase in higher education costs and issues of self-identity and confidence driven by more widespread use of social media.

“As a result, there is growing evidence these young adults are at a greater risk of developing psychiatric disorders than previous generations.”

Read the briefing paper

Mental health – Initial findings from the Next Steps Age 25 Sweep (PDF)