A young person sits against a tree in the park while reading a book.

Vast majority of under 25s took up positive pandemic mental health habits

New research shows 96% of young people did something to improve or maintain their mental health last year. Read our press release to find out more.

Despite young people facing bereavement, disruption to their education and a difficult jobs market, new research shows 96% of young people did something to improve or maintain their mental health last year.

The research carried out with around 3,000 people aged 16-241 by charity YoungMinds shows that more than 2 in 5 (42%2) said keeping in touch with family or friends has helped them maintain or improve their mental health during the pandemic and a fifth said talking to them about their feelings had helped (21%).

Almost a third (31%) are using exercise to boost their mental health, almost half of whom did it for the first time (13%)

Other findings included:

  • Almost 1 in 5 (19%) have made new friends or reconnected with old ones during this time
  • More than one in 10 (12%) have taken part in conversations online about their mental health.

Many have discovered new ways to stay mentally well and are committing to keeping them up in 2022. When asked what habits they plan to continue to support their mental health in 2022, answers included:

  • Exercise more (27%)
  • Keep in touch with friends (27%) and family (23%)
  • Almost 1 in 5 said they will spend time in nature (18%)
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the lives of young people. They are facing a once-in-a-generation challenges to their mental health and have told us they’ve struggled to cope with the changes, loss of coping mechanisms and experiences of loneliness and isolation as well as fears about the future.

“This research highlights the resilience that young people have to adapt to the extraordinary pressures in their lives, despite uncertainty about what the next few months will bring.”
Tom Madders, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds

The study of young people’s outlook on the next year also highlights key concerns about job security and exams.

The main things young people said they don’t feel positively about in 2022 include:

  • Their mental health (53%) - this was higher for girls (57%) than boys (48%)
  • Exams (51%)
  • Getting the most out of their education (44%)
  • Job security (42%)3

The figures come as YoungMinds has seen a rise in visits to its website for information on anxiety, which was consistently one of the most visited pages last year, along with content on self-harm and suicidal feelings4.

This year the Government will launch a plan for mental health covering the next decade.

“The Government has said that preventing mental health problems from developing in the future is a key priority. Young people will soon have the chance to tell decision-makers what they want when it comes to their mental health – from schooling to employment, the NHS to the environment. We want every young person to respond and have their voices heard as they have with this research.

“With an increase in young people experiencing mental health problems since the pandemic began and services struggling to keep up with the numbers that need support, it is also vital that the Government prioritises early intervention by investing in a network of early support hubs in every community.”
Tom Madders, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds

If you are reading this and are struggling to cope, remember that you are not alone and help is out there if you need it. You can always speak to someone by contacting a helpline on our urgent help page. For more information about mental health, finding help, and looking after yourself, use our help finder.

Find help

For further information and for interview requests please contact press@youngminds.org.uk or call 0203 861 2072.

1 The survey was carried out by research company Censuswide, with 3,002 16-24 year olds in the UK nationally representative of gender from 29 December 2021 – 4 January 2022. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

2  Combining those who selected ‘I have kept in touch with friends’ or ‘I have kept in touch with family’ when asked ‘What, if anything, have you done to maintain or improve your mental health during the pandemic?’

3 To the following statement ‘Thinking about the pandemic, how positive or negative, if at all, do you feel about the following areas of your life in the coming year?’

  • For mental health: 41% said ‘Neither positive nor negative’, ‘Somewhat negative’ or ‘Very negative’.
  • For Exams: 51% said ‘Neither positive nor negative’, ‘Somewhat negative’ or ‘Very negative’.
  • For getting the most out of education 28% said ‘Neither positive nor negative’, ‘Somewhat negative’ or ‘Very negative’.
  • For Job Security 42% said ‘Neither positive nor negative’, ‘Somewhat negative’ or ‘Very negative’.

4  YoungMinds website recorded 36,216 page views for self-harm and suicide in October 2021.

The charity previously published results from surveys with young people about the mental health impact of COVID-19

About YoungMinds

YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health. For more information please visit www.youngminds.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter @YoungMindsUK and Facebook

For free advice and support for parents, call our helpline on 0808 802 5544