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27 Jan 2021

New study on the mental health of Generation Z

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) and The Prince’s Trust have today published a major study on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in Generation Z.

The research shows that while the wellbeing of all young people declines by the end of their teenage years and that there is a strong gender divide within this. Girls see far lower levels of wellbeing and self-esteem than boys – driven by a sharp fall of both during mid-adolescence.

Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive of SANE, commented:

“This study provides another indication of the impact and damage of the pandemic on the minds of young people. What is particularly worrying is the scale of the increase in mental ill-health when we were already facing a significant increase in self-harm, particularly amongst girls, before Covid-19 struck.

“SANE’s own experience is that when young people feel isolated they often turn to social media which – as the report indicates – can subject them to constant competition and bullying.

“We urgently need to make child and adolescent mental health services more readily and rapidly available to meet what could be an epidemic of long-term mental illness.”

Prince's Trust EPI - Generation Z

The study found:

  • By the end of primary school, Generation Z girls have similar levels of wellbeing and self-esteem as boys but then experience a sudden decline in both by age 14
  • Girls’ wellbeing falls even lower towards the end of their teenage years, while their depressive symptoms increase significantly
  • As many as 1 in 3 girls report that they are unhappy with their personal appearance by age 14
  • The pandemic has led to a deterioration in mental health, with the number of young people with a probable mental illness rising to 1 in 6, up from 1 in 9
  • There is a social gradient in poor mental and emotional health, with young people from the lowest income families more likely to have the worst outcomes
  • Heavy social media use is shown to negatively affect wellbeing and self-esteem in adolescence, regardless of young people’s existing state of mental health
  • Being bullied in childhood is shown to adversely affect both boys’ and girls’ mental and emotional health well into their teenage years
  • Frequent physical exercise plays a particularly positive role in young people’s wellbeing – yet participation in activities and sports is expected to have fallen considerably due to school closures and lockdown

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