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Young women blame poor mental health on struggles with work and money

Abigail Fenton
Sexism at work has a direct impact on women's mental health, experts say. Photo: JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash
Sexism at work has a direct impact on women's mental health, experts say. Photo: JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash

Half of young women in the UK are worried about their mental health, blaming sexism and struggles with work and money.

Research published today, on World Mental Health Day, shows a sharp increase in the number of young women worried about their mental health, with more than half saying sexism is a major problem, and work and money worries are making them ill.

Just over half (51%) of young women surveyed by Populus Data Solutions for Young Women’s Trust said they are worried about their mental health. That is compared to 38% in 2016’s survey.

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The figure was highest among those on the lowest or no pay, at 60%. More than one in three (37%) of these young women reported having depression.

More than six in 10 (64%) of the young women surveyed by Young Women’s Trust, a charity that helps young women on low or no pay, saw sexism as a major problem in the UK, with a clear impact on mental health.

The findings are so striking that Young Women’s Trust is now undertaking deeper research with UCL, which recently found women who experience sexism are more likely to be younger and three times more likely to experience depression.

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“What too often is dismissed as young women lacking confidence is in fact a crisis in young women’s mental health caused by a sexist society. It is deeply affecting their lives and their economic freedom,” said Sophie Walker, chief executive of Young Women’s Trust.

“Young women are paid less for the same work, if they can find it. They face sexual harassment and discrimination from their bosses – even more so if they are a woman of colour or a disabled woman.

“They are more likely to be struggling to get by and to be in debt. We must face up to the impact on young women who are continually told they are not good enough, no matter what they do.”

READ MORE: More than half of women believe sexism has held them back at work

Young women are more likely than young men to report that poor mental health affects their work, finances and relationships. One in five young women say that their mental health had affected their ability to stay in work. The group most likely to say this, at 31%, was young women on the lowest or no pay.

One in three young women said their mental health affected their ability to seek work. More than half (56%) reported mental health affected their ability to maintain friendships and relationships.

When asked what else had harmed their mental health, 54% said relationships, 53% cited work and the same number said financial worries.

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Walker said: “Prevention is always better than cure – and this crisis is preventable. It starts with valuing young women.

“Alongside government investment in mental health services tailored to young women, employers need to pay young women equally, treat them fairly and acknowledge the huge contribution they make to businesses and to society, including the care work that they are routinely relied upon to do unpaid.

“Valuing and investing in young women, their talents and their contributions, is in everyone’s interest.”