More unemployed in their 20s due to sickness than those in their 40s

A recent report from the Resolution Foundation has revealed a significant shift in the age demographic of individuals not working due to ill health.

Contrary to historical trends, the study indicates that people in their early 20s are now more likely to be unemployed due to health issues compared to their counterparts in their early 40s.

The foundation described this trend as “radically different” from the past, emphasising that in previous years, older individuals were more commonly affected by work limitations due to sickness.

The primary factor contributing to this shift is the alarming rise in poor mental health among young people, according to official figures.

In 2023, the report indicates that 5 percent of young individuals aged in their early 20s were economically inactive due to ill health. The study highlights a concerning increase in mental health issues among this age group, leading to adverse impacts on education outcomes and a higher likelihood of being engaged in lower-paid jobs or experiencing unemployment.


Current data reveals that young people now have the poorest mental health compared to any other age group, a stark reversal from two decades ago when they had the lowest incidence of common mental disorders. In the year 2021/22, 34 percent of individuals aged 18 to 24 reported symptoms of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, compared to 24 percent in 2000.

The economic repercussions of poor mental health are particularly pronounced for young individuals without a university education, with one in three non-graduate young people with a common mental disorder currently without work, according to Louise Murphy, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation.

The study underscores gender disparities, revealing that young women are one-and-a-half times more likely to experience poor mental health compared to young men, with rates at 41 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Additionally, 79 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds who are not working due to ill health have qualifications at GCSE level or below, in contrast to 34 percent of all individuals in that age group.


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