Research published today, on World Mental Health Day, shows a sharp increase in the number of young women worried about their mental health, with more than half saying that sexism is a major problem and work and money worries are making them ill.
51% of young women surveyed by Populus Data Solutions for Young Women’s Trust said they were worried about their mental health. That compared to 38% in 2016’s survey. The figure was highest among those on the lowest or no pay, at 60%. More than 1 in 3 of these young women (37%) report having depression.
64% of the young women surveyed by Young Women’s Trust, a charity that helps young women on low or no pay, saw sexism as a major problem in the UK, which clearly impacts on mental health.
The findings are so striking that Young Women’s Trust is now undertaking deeper research with UCL, which recently found that women who experience sexism were more likely to be younger and three times more likely to experience depression.
“What too often is dismissed as young women lacking confidence is in fact a crisis in young women’s mental health caused by a sexist society. It is deeply affecting their lives and their economic freedom,” said Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive Sophie Walker.
“Young women are paid less for the same work, if they can find it. They face sexual harassment and discrimination from their bosses – even more so if they are a woman of colour or a disabled woman. They are more likely to be struggling to get by and to be in debt. We must face up to the impact on young women who are continually told they are not good enough, no matter what they do.”
Young women were more likely than young men to report that poor mental health affects their work, finances and relationships. 1 in 5 young women say that their mental health had affected their ability to stay in work. The group most likely to say this was young women on the lowest or no pay (31%). 1 in 3 young women say that their mental health affected their ability to seek work. More than half report that mental health affected their ability to maintain friendships and relationships (56% female, 47% male).
When asked what else had harmed their mental health, 54% said relationships, 53% cited work and the same number said financial worries.
Walker said: “Prevention is always better than cure – and this crisis is preventable. It starts with valuing young women. Alongside government investment in mental health services tailored to young women, employers need to pay young women equally, treat them fairly and acknowledge the huge contribution they make to businesses and to society, including the care work that they are routinely relied upon to do unpaid.
“Valuing and investing in young women, their talents and their contributions, is in everyone’s interest. We are working every day with young women to build strong mental health as well as equal workplaces in which they can shine.”
Note to editors
Young Women’s Trust works to give economic power to young women by raising their voices, challenging sexist stereotypes and rebuilding workplaces free from discrimination. We do this by:
- Proving free coaching and CV feedback to young women to help them build their skills, identify their talents and develop strong mental health
- Advising companies how to build equal workplaces
- Campaigning for young women to be valued – at work and in their unpaid work
- Training to share their experiences and be the change
All figures unless otherwise stated are based on findings from a survey carried out for Young Women’s Trust by Populus Data Solutions. A representative sample of 4,025 18 to 30 year olds (1,998 young men and 1,997 young women) in England and Wales, with panel services provided by Populus Live, were surveyed between 25 June and 11 July 2019. The survey shows that:
- Young women are increasingly concerned about their mental health, with the number saying they worry about it rising year-on-year: 51% say that they are worried about their mental health this year, compared to 44% in 2018, 45% in 2017 and 38% in 2016.
- This was higher for young women on the lowest or no pay at 60%, and more than three-quarters for young women with a disability or long-term health condition 77%.
- When asked what had negatively affected their mental health, young women said: relationships (54% female, 45% male), work (53% female, 42% male), financial worries (53% female, 41% male) and family conflict (50% female, 35% male).
- Female parents were more likely to report that financial worries (61%) and housing difficulties (36%) affected their mental health than non-parents. Housing was the issue most commonly reported to have an impact on mental health for young women who reported a disability or long term mental or physical health condition 74%.
- More than 1 in 5 young women said that their mental health had affected their ability to stay in work (21% of young women, compared with 16% of young men). The group most likely to say this was young women on the lowest or no pay (31%, up from 26% in 2018).
- Young women were more likely than young men to report that their mental health affected their ability to seek work (30% female, 27% male), manage finances (25% female, 23% male) or perform well at school (54% female, 45% male) or work (41% female, 34% male). Young women in the lowest socio-economic group (DE) were even more likely to report this in all areas.
- More than half of young women reported that mental health affected their ability to maintain friendships and relationships (56% female, 47% male), and this was more prominent in the 18 to 24 year old age group (61%) as compared to young women aged 25 to 30 (52%). 95% of the young women who reported having a mental health condition said this had affected their ability to maintain friendships and relationships.
Young Women’s Trust are working with Dr Ruth Hackett author of Ruth A. Hackett, Andrew Steptoe, and Sarah E. Jackson, University College London 2019, Sex Discrimination and Mental Health in Women: A Prospective Analysis