Lucas and Sanjeeda, Work Experience Students, Money and Mental Health

How has the pandemic affected young people’s mental health and employment?

1 September 2020

Lucas and Sanjeeda are two sixth form students who joined Money and Mental Health for a week of work experience this summer. This was organised through The Access Project.

We are two work experience students that, during the past week, have researched how young people’s mental health has been affected during lockdown, and how disruptions in the job market have disproportionately impacted them. This blog looks at the reality of experiencing a mental health problem and navigating the working environment for 18 to 24-year-olds amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We have personal experience of dealing with these issues; as a student who also works a part-time job, Sanjeeda knows how stressful these situations are, especially for some students like her who have not been furloughed but are unable to work. 

We have identified three main problems that young people face in terms of their mental health and employability in these difficult times. These include how young people’s mental health has worsened over the last few months, how young workers have often been laid-off instead of being furloughed, and how the financial implications of COVID-19 will continue to affect young people even after lockdown.

The causes of mental health deteriorating

The pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health and young people especially since their mental health has deteriorated. Research by Young Minds found that 41% of young people reported that the crisis had made their mental health worse. 

There are many reasons why young people’s mental health may have declined. Social distancing and loneliness has impacted our lives massively and reshaped our daily routines. Changing routine abruptly has created feelings of anxiety amongst many young people. Others have struggled with working virtually from home, saying that it’s strange and uncomfortable. 

For the more than two-fifths of 18-24-year-olds who have lost work due to furloughing or job loss this has led to decreased incomes and added significantly to their stress load. This has affected young people’s daily lives as well as their future opportunities as well.

Young people’s employment during the pandemic

Data from the Resolution Foundation found that in April 2020, less than a month into lockdown 10% of 18 to 24-year-olds had been laid-off, while the national average was just 4%. This clearly shows how the youngest workers were often the hardest hit. Additionally, four in ten (42%) of 18 to 24-year-olds reported that their income had gone down. This could be due to the fact that those working in sectors like hospitality and retail have been laid off.  

The pandemic has demonstrated the lack of job security for those who have GCSEs, A levels or equivalent as their highest form of education. Young people with a degree are more likely to work in jobs where they can work remotely and maintain social distancing. There is also a huge challenge facing students who are leaving university. The massive demand for jobs, combined with a decrease in opportunities, could damage people’s future prospects.

Considerations for the future

Unfortunately, the extension of lockdown has led to a strain on services, which has had a direct impact on young people suffering with mental health problems. Due to coronavirus suddenly shutting the world down, services which help people with mental health issues had to shift to virtual systems, and almost one-third (31%) of young people surveyed by Young Minds said they were no longer able to access support despite still needing it. With young people struggling to get the help they require, this could lead to a worsening of mental health problems. We know experiencing a mental health problem can affect people’s ability to engage with work, this could also have a big effect on an individual’s employment prospects. 

Young people are experiencing anxiety about their future and finances. Being a student brings financial responsibilities, but decreasing incomes and a lack of opportunities for employment could make it harder for people to manage. The pandemic will not only affect young people now but also in the future, as students moving from education to the workplace struggle because of the massive demand for fewer jobs.