The Prince’s Trust eBay Youth Index has found that 60% of 16-25 year olds in Scotland believe social media creates an “overwhelming pressure” to succeed, while 49% 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 over half (52%) of young people in Scotland feel more anxious about their future when comparing themselves to others on social media. 

More than a third (38%) of young Scots worry that they will never be as happy as the people they see on social media and almost one in six (15%) “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.

The report finds that 40% of young people in Scotland feel more confident online than they do in person. 

These figures come in parallel with findings that young Scots confidence in their emotional health has dropped, with a score of 61, down from 67 last year.

Kate Still, Director of The Prince’s Trust Scotland, said: “It is concerning that over the past 12 months there has been no improvement in the way young people in Scotland and across the UK are feeling about their lives and mental health. It is disheartening to see that the Youth Index score in Scotland has taken a significant dip.

Since the Youth Index launched a decade ago, social media has become an overwhelming presence in young people’s lives. This research suggests it could be exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time. Young people are critical to the future success of our communities and country, and can realise their full potential if supported to believe in themselves. It is critical that employers, government, charities and wider communities work together to support young people build their resilience, confidence and self-esteem. That’s why at The Trust we are equipping young people with the skills they need to be healthy, happy and safe both online and offline.

The effects of social media on young people are still unclear, and almost a third (31%) of young Scots report that social media makes them feel like they can influence positive change and have a voice for their generation. One in four young people (25%) believe spending time on social media makes them happy. However, it is clear that offline activities and relationships are still really important to young people’s wellbeing and happiness, including being creative (48%), earning enough money to live how they want (63%) and spending time with friends and family (79%).

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 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. 

We are utilising our social media channels to encourage young people to re-define success on their own terms and set achievable goals. #YouthIndex

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