UK State of Mental Health Continues to Suffer

Young Brits are giving up on the pursuit of happiness.

What’s happening: A new report from the ONS found happiness levels in the UK are still falling short of their pre-pandemic baseline, with young people hit the hardest.

  • In the last quarter of 2022, only 23% of Brits claimed to have “very high” levels of life satisfaction, down from an average of 30% in 2019.
  • For people in their 20s, this figure dropped even further to 19%, lagging way behind the 32% reported by those aged 60+.
  • Those reporting high happiness levels also dipped from 35% in 2019 to below 30%.

Worse still, as the cost of living continues to spike in the UK––putting a strain on finances, physical health, and relationships––increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress are leading to a collective decline in mental health.

Why it matters: Running on empty, people in the UK are too exhausted to adopt a healthy lifestyle, with 38% of UK adults claiming an absence of motivation and 35% claiming fatigue as the main reasons for forgoing changes to diet and physical activity.

Even more concerning, those aged 25–34 (48%) were twice as likely than those aged 55+ (23%) to cite tiredness as a barrier to getting healthier.

Silent Epidemic

Unhealthy lifestyle behaviours linked to the onset and symptoms of various mental health disorders are costing the UK economy £28B a year through loss of productivity and working days.

The NHS, also feeling the strain, has seen waiting times for mental health support rise to an average of six to nine months. And younger generations, who report higher rates of mental illness than their predecessors, are often going without treatment.

On the bright side. As society sheds stigmas associated with mental health and seeking help, Gen-Z is taking their mental well-being into their own hands, seeking out digital-first social groups or music-as-therapy services like Spoke and SoundMind.

But, when it comes to truly moving the needle, there’s still a long way to go to counter lengthy wait times, lack of affordable and accessible care, and dissatisfaction with current services. Meaning, as of right now, the supply of inclusive care is far outstripping the demand.

Looking ahead: As younger generations come of age, their mental health issues aren’t likely to resolve on their own. Improved access and choice will lead to better treatment outcomes, but prevention is better than cure. Taking a look at lifestyle, exercise, getting outdoors, eating well, and forging meaningful in-person relationships have a part to play in improving the nation’s mental well-being.