Some fifteen per cent of long-term Neets - young people not in education, employment or training - are dead within 10 years, one of England's top civil servants has claimed.
Department for Children, Schools and Families director general of schools Jon Coles said the figure proved that the work of teachers, schools and colleges was a "matter of life and death".
Speaking at a conference last month, Mr Coles quoted research about Neets in the north of England. It concluded that one in six long-term Neets died within a decade of falling out of the system.
These statistics come as the recession triggers a surge in the number of young people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training. They are now at a 16-year high.
Nearly 16 per cent of 16-24 year-olds in England are Neets. In June, the Government released figures revealing that the number of 16-24 year-old Neets in England had reached 935,000, up by 125,000 last year.
And according to figures released by the Local Government Association in June, the number of Neets is soon expected to reach one million for the first time.
Mr Coles told a Westminster Forum in London recently that there was a very clear "social cost" of being outside the system of education and training.
He said: "This was brought home to me very sharply about 18 months ago in one city in the North . They had done a piece of work that examined what had happened to the long-term Neets of 10 years ago, where were they now and what had become of them.
"They found one profoundly shocking thing, which I still find profoundly shocking today, and that is of those long-term Neets of 10 years ago - those who had been outside the system for a long period of time - 15 per cent of those young people were dead by the time that research was done."
Mr Coles said he hoped the statistics were not a representation of the country as a whole, but that for those young people being outside education, employment or training took them into a "downward spiral" that led to them dying "very, very young".
He added: "For those of us who console ourselves with the thought that education is not a matter of life and death, actually for those young people - for the most vulnerable children and young people in our society - it really is."
According to the British Birth Cohort Study, 16 to 18-year-old "non- participating" young people are, by the age of 21, more likely to experience depression and poor physical health.
The Government has pledged a further pound;655 million in the shape of its "September Guarantee". The DCSF expects to invest pound;6.9 billion to ensure every young person leaving Year 11 has the option of a "suitable" place in learning.
Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said the Government had "failed to get to grips" with the rising problem of Neets in England.
Mr Gove said: "The prospects for those young people that are not in education, training or employment are truly shocking. Far from the Government getting to grips with this problem over the past 10 years, it was actually getting worse before the current recession began.
"Far too many of these young people have been caught in the long tail of underachievement in the education system, which is concentrated in the poorest areas."
What are the chances?
- One in 3,020: average chance of dying within the next year if you are aged 15-24.
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- One in two: current smokers who will die from the habit if they continue to smoke.
- One in 1,000: chance of dying from glue-sniffing.