The Prince’s Trust NatWest Youth Index 2024, released this week, finds that almost one third (32 per cent) of 16–25-year-olds in Wales are worried their mental health will stop them achieving their career goals.

The Youth Index is an annual research report based on a YouGov survey of 2,239 16- to 25-year-olds across the UK, gauging young people’s confidence and happiness across a range of areas, from their physical and mental health to money and working life.

This year’s research shows the overall wellbeing of young people remains low, with happiness and confidence in mental health seeing the biggest decrease compared to other factors over the 15-year history of the research. Happiness in work, education, qualifications and money are at all-time lows.

In Wales almost one fifth (17 per cent) of young people report a mental health issue has stopped them applying for a job or attending an interview (10 per cent) during the last 12 months, with over a quarter (26 per cent) missing school or work in the past year due to their mental health. The report finds that over half (52 per cent) of 16 to 25-year-olds in Wales have experienced a mental health problem, while (23 per cent) report their mental health has got worse in the last year.

The findings suggest that the rising cost of living and economic uncertainty is exacerbating mental health issues and its impacts, as over one third (37 percent) of young people say that worrying about money has made their mental health much worse. Over half (51 per cent) in Wales state the cost of living crisis has had a worse impact on their life than the pandemic. Over two fifths (43 per cent) of young people say thinking about money depresses or stresses them, with over half (58 per cent) worrying that the crisis means they'll never be financially secure.

Sarah Jones, Director of Delivery at The Prince’s Trust in Wales said: “This year’s report shows that rising rates of poor mental health are significantly impacting young people’s education and early careers in Wales.

“With unemployed 16 – 25-year-olds consistently reporting the worst overall wellbeing, it also shows us – and young people tell us - that being in employment is good for their mental health, gives their lives stability and financial security, and enables them to feel positive about their future.  

“Unless we take immediate action, this trap of poor mental health and employment struggles exacerbating each other, threatens to close in on a generation. Urgent support is needed from partners, government and employers, to support young people to break this cycle.”

In Wales, over half (50 per cent) worry about not having the right skills and qualifications, or the right experience (60 per cent) to get a job in the future. Over one third (34 per cent) of young people don't feel in control of their future. They also report not feeling confident they will achieve their goals in life (22 per cent) and (25 per cent) say they will fail in life.

Sandi Royden, Head of Youth and Families, NatWest, said: “These findings show that we should not underestimate the impact the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have had on the daily lives of our young people, their financial confidence and their future aspirations. They also highlight the resilience of the next generation with so many feeling determined to achieve their goals in the face of these challenges. 

“Through our partnership with the Prince’s Trust, we are able to better understand the needs of young people and take the right action through initiatives like NatWest Thrive, to help them to improve both their financial wellbeing and future confidence, to better equip them to achieve their goals.” 

In Wales, young people report that having a job is good for their mental health (63 per cent), enables them to feel confident about their future (68 per cent) and gives them a sense of purpose in life (60 per cent). Almost three quarters (73 per cent) report that having a job gives them the financial stability they need and will help get them through the cost of living crisis (70 per cent).

Over two thirds (69 per cent) of young people in Wales feel determined to achieve their goals in life. One third (33 per cent) report help with securing work experience or training would help them achieve their career ambitions. This is followed by help to build confidence (32 per cent) CV and interview skills (29 per cent), skills for work (21 per cent) and improve their qualifications (26 percent).

The Prince’s Trust helps tens of thousands of young people in each year to build the confidence and skills they need to realise their potential. Three in four young people on Prince’s Trust programmes move into work, education or training. 

NatWest have worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust for over 20 years, helping thousands of young people to start their own businesses, develop skills for employment and supported hundreds of staff to volunteer with young people across the UK.