Young people in the UK have second-worst mental wellbeing, global survey shows

Only Japan scored worse than the UK on mental wellbeing, but more millennials in Britain think their country is a good place to live than those in France, Italy and America

Will Hazell

Will Hazell

News article image

Young people in the UK are ranked 19th out of 20 countries for mental wellbeing in a new international survey of millennials, with only Japan ranked lower.

But more than two-thirds of young people in the UK (67 per cent) think their country is a good place to live, compared with just 4 per cent who think it is a bad place to live.

The survey, commissioned by the Varkey Foundation, is the most comprehensive up-to-date survey of “Generation Z” – teenagers and young adults who were born around the turn of the millennium.

The poll of 15- to 21-year-olds ranked the UK behind 18 countries, from the US to Nigeria, on mental wellbeing, with young people in Indonesia and India scoring highest.  

While their mental wellbeing was the second-worst, young people in the UK overwhelmingly think that Britain is a good place to live, with the country scoring better on this measure than France, Italy and the US, but lower than Germany and China.

Canada and Nigeria ranked highest with 87 per cent saying their country is a good place to live.

At the bottom was South Korea – the only country in the survey where more young people think their nation is a bad place to live (29 per cent) than a good place to live (23 per cent).

Money worries

Over half of the UK millennials questioned (54 per cent) placed money in their top three causes of anxiety, and they were most likely to choose “working hard and getting on in life” as their most important personal value.

The highest proportions of young people who placed school pressures as their top anxiety were in South Korea and China – two countries which frequently top the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings.

UK millennials were among the least likely in the survey to emphasise the importance of making a wider contribution to society.

But more think that the government should make it easier (31 per cent) rather than harder (26 per cent) for immigrants to live and work legally in the UK.

The proportion who think the government should make it easier was higher than in France (27 per cent) but lower than the US (38 per cent), which had the highest support for legal migration of all the Western countries polled.

When asked what made them most fearful for the future, UK young people ranked terrorism and conflict as their biggest concern – it was the same for every country except China, where young people were more worried about climate change.

Large majorities of young people throughout the world support liberal values – from equal treatment for men and women to legality for same-sex marriage – even in some cases where these values run contrary to the laws of their county, the poll shows.

However, support for free speech even when it is offensive to a religion is weak, with only about half (56 per cent) supporting this globally, and 58 per cent in the UK.

Fearful for the future

Overall, more young people are pessimistic rather than optimistic about the world’s future, but there is a divide between optimistic rising countries like Nigeria, India and China and pessimistic Western countries.

In the UK, 41 per cent think the world is becoming a worse place, but the most pessimistic country is France, where 53 per cent think it is getting worse.

Vikas Pota, chief executive of the Varkey Foundation, said that “at a time of nationalist and populist movements” focusing on differences, the survey shows that young people across the globe “share a strikingly similar view of the world”.

“Young people are passionate believers in the right to live the life that they choose, whatever their background, free of prejudice of all kinds,” he said.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories