The Prince’s Trust eBay Youth Index (pdf, 2mb) released today has found that 57 per cent of 16-25 year olds believe social media creates an “overwhelming pressure” to succeed, while 46 per cent say that comparing their lives to their friends on social media makes them feel “inadequate”. 

Published at a time when comparison with peers online seems inescapable for many young people, the report reveals how almost half (48 per cent) feel more anxious about their future when comparing themselves to others on social media. 

More than a third (38 per cent) worry that they will never be as happy as the people they see on social media and one in six (16 per cent) “always” or “often” feel “panicked” when seeing the lives of their friends online.

The Youth Index, supported by eBay, is a national survey that gauges young people’s happiness and confidence across a range of areas from their working life to physical and mental health. The latest report – based on an online survey of 2,162 young people across the UK aged 16-25 – finds the overall Index score has flat-lined at its lowest level in a decade at 69.[1]

The report finds that 41 per cent of young people feel more confident online than they do in person. This is highest among 16-18 year olds at 47 per cent, significantly more than the 19-25 year olds. These figures come in parallel with findings that young people’s confidence in their emotional health has dropped to its lowest level since the Index began, with a score of 64.

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “It appears that in the last 12 months nothing has happened to improve the way young people are feeling about their lives. It is very sad to see the Youth Index score remain at its lowest level, and concerning that the considerable decline we saw in the Index last year has shown no recovery.

Since the Youth Index launched a decade ago, social media has become omnipresent in the lives of young people and this research suggests it is exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time. Young people are critical to the future success of this country, but they’ll only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms. It is therefore a moral and economic imperative that employers, government, charities and wider communities put the needs of young people centre stage.

The effects of social media on young people are still unclear, and a third (32 per cent) of respondents claim that social media makes them feel like they can have a voice for their generation and influence positive change. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents believe spending time on social media makes them happy. However, more popular responses included sport (44 per cent), earning enough money to live how they want (62 per cent) and spending time with family (77 per cent).

Rob Hattrell Vice President eBay UK, said: 

The decline in young people’s wellbeing score  in this year’s Youth Index is very concerning. eBay continues to work closely with The Prince’s Trust,  building the confidence and skills of more young people to help them realise their full ambition and potential. The next generation is the future of our economy, so it’s now more important than ever to ensure every young person is equipped to carve their own path to success.

The Prince’s Trust gives young people the support needed to stabilise their lives, helping to develop the core skills needed to thrive in education and work. The Trust is enhancing mental health and wellbeing content across our programmes, aiming to boost mental health literacy, improve wellbeing, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

The Trust has convened the UK2030 taskforce, which has just committed to two new field trips in England and Scotland, meeting young people and mental health experts on the ground. This will develop constructive, actionable recommendations for businesses, third sector and government to ensure young people are healthy, happy and safe. 

Join us on The Prince's Trust social media channels as we challenge young people’s perceptions of success, encouraging them to re-define success on their own terms and set achievable goals. #YouthIndex

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[1] Methodology: Survey participants are asked how happy and confident they are in different areas of their lives. The responses are then converted into a numerical scale, resulting in a number between 0 and 100, where 100 denotes participants being entirely happy or confident and zero being not at all happy or confident. The results for 2019 have been mapped against the data from the previous nine reports to give a high-level view of how the wellbeing and outlooks of young people have changed over time.