A sharp increase in emotional problems has been linked to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and ?wider global uncertainties?
Mental health issues are increasing among children and teenagers in England, a new NHS Digital report shows, predicting a sharp increase in mental disorders among 17- to 19-year-olds in 2022.
Published on Tuesday, the report found that one in four young Britons are now experiencing issues, including emotional or behavioral problems, compared to the one-in-six rate recorded in 2021. The survey sampled some 2,866 children and young people who are aged between seven and 24.
Among those aged seven to 10, prevalence of a potential mental disorder was nearly twice as high in boys - 19.7% against 10.5% in girls. Among the older 17- to 24-year-old age group, the prevalence was much higher in young women - 31.2% compared to only 13.3% in young men.
Teenagers of both genders showed similar results, with the figure hovering around 20%.
Researchers linked the increase in mental health issues to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Co-author of the survey Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado, a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, said the pandemic "has been quite a shock to the system in terms of impact on young people's education, family, home lives and socializing."
The ever-rising cost of living and "wider global uncertainties" are also having an impact on young people's mental health, Newlove-Delgado noted, adding that 17- to 19-year-olds are going through "a time of quite stressful change."
Researchers also drew a link between social and economic issues and mental health.
"There are strong associations between poor health - both physical and mental - over housing insecurity, financial insecurity [and], sadly these days, food and heating insecurity, and we certainly see that cross-section here," report co-author Tamsin Ford, a professor with the University of Cambridge, said.
British charities quickly spoke up about the NHS findings, urging the UK government to act before it is too late. London risks "failing an entire generation unless it prioritises investment in young people's mental-health services," the mental health charity Mind said.
"Young people and their families cannot be sidelined any longer by the government, who need to prioritise the crisis in youth mental health as a matter of national emergency," Mind interim CEO Sophie Corlett stated.