Economic crisis hits youth health

New research into the impact of the economic downturn on the nation's health has revealed that its young people who are being hit the hardest.

While 36% of people surveyed for the ICM poll said they were feeling stressed because of the economic crisis, this rose to 43% in the 18-24 age group, showing that economic anxiety has no age limit. The poll was commissioned by GP-authored health website Patient.

The survey also highlighted:

  • One in four adults under 25 (24%) say they are drinking more heavily since the financial crisis hit, compared to just 14% of all adults.
  • More than half of young people (57%) have gained or lost weight since the financial crisis; 37% had put on weight - anxiety induced comfort eating a key factor - while 20% had lost weight, with one in eight (13%) blaming this on economic worries.
  • Lack of money has increased feelings of social isolation for the under 25s as almost half (46%) of 18-24s said they can no longer afford to go out socially and see people, compared to 34% of the general population. One in eight (12%) of under 25s say they feel lonelier as a result of the economic crisis.
  • Sleeplessness is on the increase for the whole population, with 20% of adults (19% of young people) saying they are sleeping less well since the economic crisis.

In the last two years, searches for depression on Patient have doubled - with around 2,800 people a week downloading information on the subject - and requests for stress tips have soared.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, one of the GP authors at Patient, said: "The research presents a worrying picture of youth health. This group are the least likely to visit their GP to discuss health concerns yet are being badly hit, mentally and physically, by the economic downturn. Taking time out to address health worries is not a priority for young people, and is slipping down the nation's priority list as a whole. With things not set to improve any time soon, we could be facing real health problems before long."

Neil Laycock, Managing Director of Patient, said: "The financial crisis means we have less time, less money and more worry - factors not helpful to our health. The volume and changing nature of searches we've witnessed on the site suggested the connection. This research confirmed it. It also revealed something very important - that it's wrong to assume who may or may not be affected."

On average, women are more stressed than men as a result of the economic downturn. While under a third of men (31%) blame the state of the economy for rising stress levels, 42% of women are feeling the strain.

Weight-wise it seems that while we may be losing cash from our pockets, we're gaining pounds around our waistlines. A third of us (33%) have put on weight since the start of the economic crisis, with biggest gainers living in Scotland (37%).

Comfort eating when stressed is the number one reason given by those who have put on weight since the downturn - cited by 27% of respondents. One in ten (10%) say that working longer hours to means they are eating more 'bad' food, while one in five (21%) say they have put on weight because of eating unhealthy food that's cheaper to buy.

Release date: 1 February 2012