Young people aged 18 to 24 are the age group most likely to feel anxious in the UK, according to our recent survey

17th May 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week
Young people

Young people in the UK are more likely to feel anxious than any other age group


of UK adults aged 18 to 24 said anxiety interfered with their day-to-day life to some extent


of UK adults aged 18 to 24 said they felt anxious most or all of the time in the last two weeks


of UK adults aged 18 to 24 said they felt ashamed to talk about their anxiety to anyone.

The vast majority of young people aged 18 to 24 felt anxious in the last two weeks, so much so that it interfered with their day-to-day life, according to data we released earlier this week.

The survey of 6000 UK adults (conducted on our behalf by Opinium) illustrates the prevalence of anxiety in the UK, showing how common a feeling this is, especially in young people.

Anxiety is a common emotion: almost nine in ten (86%) young people felt anxious at least sometimes in the last two weeks, with over a third (34%) feeling anxious most or all of the time, but if anxiety gets out of control it can become a mental health problem. Worryingly, more than a third of young people (34%) who are feeling anxious say they are not coping well with those feelings.

Young people are the most ashamed to open up about their anxiety. Almost half (45%) said they felt ashamed to talk about their anxiety to anyone.

Our expert tips for managing feelings of anxiety highlight that speaking to trusted people about how you’re feeling can make a big difference, often providing a new perspective and alleviating feelings of anxiety. Encouragingly, of those people who spoke to friends about their feelings of anxiety, 91% said it helped.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

“Young people in the UK have lived through austerity, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis, against the backdrop of global instability and climate change. They have shown incredible resilience in the face of such challenges, but it is unsurprising that this has taken a toll on their mental health. Feelings of anxiety are prevalent among young people in the UK so we must help them understand and manage those feelings in a healthy way.

“However, the burden can’t be placed solely on young people. We need action from governments and decision-makers across the UK to support young people in education, work, housing, and communities. We owe it to our young people to provide better opportunities for them to thrive.”

Issues around school, college or university are the most common cause of anxiety in the last two weeks – mentioned by two in five (40%) of young people. A third of young people (33%) said work made them anxious in the last two weeks. Loneliness was stated as a cause of anxiety among young people by almost a third (31%) – higher than any other age group.

Job insecurity or unemployment was more likely to be a cause of anxiety among 18 to 24-year-olds than any other age group (23% said this made them feel anxious in the last two weeks). A greater proportion of young people also said they felt anxious due to their housing situation (15%), walking alone (15%), living or travelling in an unsafe area (10%) and climate change (9%).

Mark Rowland continued:

“Putting mental health at the heart of our education system and re-investing youth clubs and grassroots organisations is vital in helping young people to build their mental well-being and prevent poor mental health.

“The Government needs to tackle issues like bullying and discrimination with evidence-based interventions that we know already work for young people. This needs to be part of a cross-government plan that addresses pressures on young people’s mental health and ensures increased support and opportunities for young people to thrive.”

Tammie, a student in Cardiff, is a Mental Health Foundation Young Leader. She said:

“Being at school, and now at university, can amplify feelings of anxiety. There’s constant pressure to succeed, to not disappoint others. When there is a very competitive environment fostered at school, the thought of falling short of expectations can induce anxiety in anyone.

“My role as a Mental Health Foundation Young Leader has been so beneficial to me. It has helped me recognise certain patterns or environments that were triggering or potentially harmful to my mental health. It has helped me to understand anxiety and things I can do to cope with those feelings whether that be social anxiety or exam pressure. Being part of the group has encouraged me to put a greater emphasis on taking care of myself and my mental health and viewing it with the same urgency as I would my physical health.”

We are the home of Mental Health Awareness Week

Learn more about the week and read our report about anxiety in the UK.
Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week - 15 to 21 May 2023


Notes to editors

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] .

About polling

Mental Health Foundation polling of 6000 UK adults was carried out by Opinium between 24 March and 3 April 2023. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative.

About Mental Health Awareness Week

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • Our vision is for good mental health for all.
  • The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.
  • We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.
  • Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves.
  • The Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidenced-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.
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