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Young people are facing a mental health crisis

They're reporting high levels of depression and anxiety about the impact the pandemic is having on their lives.

As a disease, Covid-19 disproportionately has it in for older people: 98 percent of the UK deaths were in over 50s. Young people generally have mild symptoms, with kids and teens making up less than 1 percent of hospital cases. But when it comes to the measures put in place by governments to stop the spread of coronavirus, the impact seems to trend the other way.

People under 30 were more likely than their older peers to say that they were concerned that their relationships, jobs, education, finances and life plans would be negatively affected by the pandemic. It’s probably not a coincidence that young people’s mental health seems to be suffering more, too. One in three 16-34 year-olds said they were showing symptoms of depression in June 2020, compared to one in five of the overall adult population.

Poor mental health is obviously bad for your wellbeing, but it’s bad for your economic prospects too. When you’re unwell, you can’t work as effectively (or at all). Your grades and career may therefore suffer, and this can impact your ability to find your preferred type of work long-term.

Societies as a whole also have an economic incentive to try and minimise mass mental health suffering. When people aren’t being as productive as they could be, the economy makes fewer goods and services (so less wealth is being created overall). Their wages are also usually lower than they could be, meaning less tax for the government to spend on stuff like hospitals and nurses. And this is particularly worrying when it’s concentrated in a younger generation, because it’s their taxes that will pay for the pensions and later-life care of the generations above them.

It might, however, be difficult to directly fix some of the issues which are negatively affecting young people’s 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 cut off from them during this time. They’re more likely to live in crowded or crummy accommodation that doesn’t lend itself to working from home, and they’re more likely to have lower-income or lower-responsibility jobs that are particularly susceptible to being laid off.

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

Read our explainer on: what does a productive life really look like?

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