A new Aviva report into adult wellbeing has found that young people in the UK aged 16-24 are more affected than other age groups by mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, yet are least likely to seek support.
Despite the success of widespread initiatives to break the taboo of mental health across the UK, young adults are still almost twice as likely not to seek any support (13% vs 7% UK adults) compared to their older counterparts.
Overall, the report from Aviva shows that 50% of UK adults would feel uncomfortable or unsure about telling others if they experienced a mental health problem. 47% of UK adults are currently experiencing or have recovered from a past mental health condition themselves.
However, it is young adults (16-24) who are more likely to say they have experienced a mental health condition (63% v 47% UK adults) and are the least comfortable discussing their mental health problems (33% vs 27% UK adults), suggesting millions of young adults could be going undiagnosed or ignored. They are also least likely to feel they are receiving the right treatment for their issues (15% vs 10% UK adults).
46% of young adults say they have suffered from anxiety in the past 12 months, significantly higher than UK adults (35%). Depression is also more common amongst this younger age group (39% vs 30% UK adults).
Across the UK, stress was found to be the most common mental health condition among UK adults of all ages, with 37% having experienced stress over the past year. This rose to 45% for young adults and while 17% of UK adults said they feel stressed every day, this climbed to 28% for young adults.
Of the young adults who have experienced a mental health problem, body image appears to be one of the key contributors amongst this age group. 33% of young adults cite unhappiness with their appearance as one of the main causes of their mental health problems, compared to just 18% of UK adults. Money worries (42%) is the only issue rated more highly than body image for young adults.
Dr Doug Wright, medical director of Aviva UK Health, said: “Mental illness is often dubbed an invisible illness, but that doesn’t mean its sufferers should remain silent. Tremendous work has been done to remove the stigma around mental health in recent years. However our research highlights how widespread mental health conditions are around the UK, particularly amongst younger adults, and those who are currently suffering should find some comfort in knowing they are not alone. Having open and honest conversations about mental health is the only way to break the taboo and help people seek the support they need.
“As with all illnesses, prevention is often better than cure. There are a whole host of methods we know can help adults combat mental health problems – whether that’s meditating, exercising or practicing mindfulness. The trick lies in finding the measure that suits you. Your GP can advise on the range of options, and which may suit you best. The most important thing is to have the conversation in the first place.”