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Mental health

Some of the most common mental disorders experienced by young people include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, behavioural disorders and eating disorders.  Mental health problems have important implications for all aspects of young people’s lives.

Among boys the likelihood of a disorder is highest at age 11-16.  Among girls, it is 17-19


Before exploring symptoms of mental ill health, it is worth noting that young people usually rate their own overall wellbeing as fairly high. Wellbeing studies usually consist of self-reported answers to questions including ‘How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’; ‘To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’, and ‘How happy did you feel yesterday?’. The Office for National Statistics is currently reviewing its children’s wellbeing measures. In the last report in 2018, 10-15 year olds in Great Britain generally gave high or very high ratings to these questions. The ratings range from 70.6% to 81% depending on question and gender.

10-15 year olds generally rate their own wellbeing as good

The Exeter Schools Health Education Unit survey’s regular questions on wellbeing show that satisfaction with life declines across age 10-15, and worry about looks increases.

Wellbeing declines with age across age 10-15

The life satisfaction and wellbeing questions are also asked of 16-24 year olds in the ONS annual population survey. Chart 6.3 shows their responses to the same three questions on life satisfaction, how worthwhile they think their life is, and how happy they were on the previous day. Results are presented separately for 16-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds. As with the younger age group, the majority reflect high levels of wellbeing according to these questions, but ratings are lower again for the older age group.

Wellbeing for 16-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds is generally high, but declines with age

The pressure of school work is clearly something that impacts on wellbeing for young people. The Health Behaviour in School aged Children survey (2018 data) showed how this increased from age 11 to age 15 in England and Scotland (Chart 6.4).

Young people feel increasing pressure from school work as they go through secondary school - England and Scotland

The same pattern is seen in data from Wales in Chart 6.5, but here the answers were either ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ of pressure so percentages are higher.

Young people feel increasing pressure from school work as they go through secondary school - Wales

All data correct as of 1st November 2021