The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index released today (9th January) warns that more than a quarter of young people (28%) don’t feel in control of their lives, with concerns about job prospects, self-confidence and recent political events playing on young minds.

The Youth Index, sponsored by Macquarie, is a national survey that gauges young people’s wellbeing across a range of areas from family life to physical health. The latest report demonstrates that young people’s wellbeing is at its lowest level since the Index was first commissioned[1].

The eighth Index – based on a survey of 2,215 young people aged 16 to 25 – reveals that many young people are feeling trapped by their circumstances, with almost a fifth (18%) saying they don’t believe they can change their circumstances if they want to. The research also reveals that 16% think their life will amount to nothing, no matter how hard they try.

The report highlights a wide range of factors that could be contributing to young people feeling out of control of their lives. For example, one in ten young people (12%) claim they don’t know anyone who ‘really cares’ about them, 45% feel stressed about body image and 37% feel stressed about how to cope at work or school. Of those young people who don’t feel in control, 61% feel a lack of self-confidence holds them back.

Mounting pressures of turbulent times

The Youth Index indicates that the current political and economic climate also appears to be taking its toll on young people. 58% of young people say recent political events make them feel anxious about their future, with 41% feeling more anxious about life in general than a year ago.  Many feel confused, with 44% claiming they don’t know what to believe because they read conflicting things in the media about the economy.

Half of young people feel the pressures of getting a job are greater than a year ago and more than a third (36%) don’t feel in control of their job prospects. Rising living costs are also a big concern, with 37% of young people who feel out of control of their lives worried that their living costs are going up faster than their wages or salary.

42% feel traditional goals such as owning a house or getting a steady job are unrealistic. 34% think they will have a worse standard of living than their parents did.

Dame Martina Milburn DCVO CBE, Chief Executive at The Prince’s Trust said:

“This report paints a deeply concerning picture of a generation who feel their ability to shape their own future is slipping away from them. It’s shocking how many feel so desperate about their situation and it is vital that we support them to develop the confidence and coping skills they need to succeed in life. The single most important thing we can do to empower these young people is to help them into a job, an education course or on to a training programme. Now, more than ever, we must work together to provide the support and opportunities they need to unlock a brighter future.”

David Fass, CEO of Macquarie Group, EMEA said:

“We have seen first-hand how the work of organisations such as The Prince’s Trust can transform young lives. Macquarie is committed to investing in young people and we hope the findings of this years’ Index will help inform the development of the policy and programmes designed to address the issues facing young people today.”

Professor Louise Arseneault, ESRC Mental Health Leadership Fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London said:

"Given the profound uncertainty surrounding recent political events and the fact that young people face the worst job prospects in decades, it's not surprising to read that one in four young people aged 16 to 25 don’t feel in control of their lives. Although it’s obviously alarming that these concerns play on young minds, it’s encouraging to see that young people have an interest in actively shaping their own future.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to help young people overcome any emotional well-being challenges that may be holding them back in life, The Prince’s Trust has launched a new mental health strategy, supported by The Royal Mail Group, to give its staff, volunteers and delivery partners the confidence and ability to respond to young people’s mental health needs.

Mental health support will be embedded in all The Trust’s employability and personal development programmes to help vulnerable young people access the most appropriate care at the earliest opportunity. The Trust will partner with mental health organisations and specialist services to build a suite of training resources and work with them with an ambition of co-locating mental health related services at Prince’s Trust centres.

This year, The Prince’s Trust will support 60,000 disadvantaged young people to develop the confidence and skills they need to succeed in life. Three in four young people supported by The Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training.

Read the full report

[1] The Index, which measures levels of happiness and confidence, has decreased by one point – down from 71 to 70 in the last 12 months.