Half of young women worried about their mental health

Thursday 10 October 2019

Half of young women worried about their mental health, blaming sexism and struggles with work and money 

World Mental Health Day 51%

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 per cent 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 per cent in 2016’s survey. The figure was highest among those on the lowest or no pay, at 60 per cent. More than one in three of these young women (37 per cent) report having depression.   

64 percent 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. One in five 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 per cent, or nearly one in three). One in three 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 per cent female, 47 per cent male). 

When asked what else had harmed their mental health, 54 per cent said relationships, 53 per cent 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.”  


Notes to editor:   

  1. 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: 
  • PROVIDING 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 YOUNG ACTIVISTS to share their experiences and be the change 
  1. All figures unless otherwise stated are based on findings from a survey carried out for Young Women’s Trust byPopulus Data Solutions. A representative sample of 4,025 18-30 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 per cent say that they are worried about their mental health this year, compared to 44per cent in 2018, 45 per cent in 2017 and 38 per cent in 2016. 
  • This was higher for young women on the lowest or no pay at 60 per cent, and more than three-quarters for young women with a disability or long-term health condition 77 per cent.    
  • When asked what had negatively affected their mental health, young women said: relationships (54 per centfemale, 45 per cent male), work (53 per cent female, 42 per cent male), financial worries (53 per cent female, 41 per cent male) and family conflict (50 per cent female, 35 per cent male). 
  • Female parents were more likely to report that financial worries (61 per cent) and housing difficulties (36 per cent) 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 per cent. 
  • More than one in five young women said that their mental health had affected their ability to stay in work (21per cent of young women, compared with 16 per cent of young men). The group most likely to say this was young women on the lowest or no pay (31 per cent, up from 26 per cent in 2018). 
  • Young women were more likely than young men to report that their mental health affected their ability to seek work (30 per cent female, 27 per cent male), manage finances (25 per cent female, 23 per cent male) or perform well at school (54 per cent female, 45 per cent male) or work (41 per cent female, 34 per cent 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 per cent female, 47 per cent male), and this was more prominent in the 18 to 24 year-old age group (61 per cent) as compared to young women aged 25 to 30 (52 per cent). 95 per cent of the young women who reported having a mental health condition said this had affected their ability to maintain friendships and relationships. 
  1. 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 

To request an interview with Sophie Walker, or for more information on Young Women’s Trust’s policy recommendations, surveys or case studies, please contact Bex Bailey at bex.bailey@youngwomenstrust.org or on 020 7837 2019.