Almost one in four (23 per cent) young people feel depressed about their future due to a combination of pressures that harm their confidence, according to new survey by O2’s Think Big programme.

The findings reveal just how bleak young people consider their prospects to be and paint a picture of what they see as the contributing factors.

Only half (49 per cent) feel confident they will have a secure job in the next five years, while 72 per cent say there are not enough good quality jobs for young people.

When it comes to the root causes of this predicament, 57 per cent believe employers discriminate against them because of their age, whilst 54 per cent blame poor advice and support in finding work.

Young people also think that the media’s obsession with celebrity creates unachievable role models and is damaging to young people’s self esteem (82 per cent). Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) believe that the media portrays young people negatively and, as a consequence, young people are poorly perceived by adults in general (68 per cent), by employers (62 per cent).

The findings are taken from O2 Youth Matters, the first instalment of a long-term research project designed to gain a unique understanding and insight into the outlook, attitudes and opinions of young people. The findings will be published regularly to help create a picture of what young people in Britain think and feel about the important issues affecting their lives.

Commenting on the research, Bill Eyres, Head of Think Big at O2, said: ‘Through our youth program, O2 works with hundreds of young people to help them play a positive role in their communities. We get the chance to hear firsthand how it feels to be a young person today, and we wanted to give them a bigger national platform to help them make their voice heard.

‘The message from young people is clear. Given the very tough economic conditions and high levels of unemployment they face, they need support from Government and organisations to help them take action. The good news is there is growing evidence, as we’ve seen through O2’s Think Big programme, that giving young people the opportunity to make a difference in their community, by trusting them with funding, we can help provide them with a route back to confidence and employability.’

Teesside University’s youth and communities expert Professor Tony Chapman, who has helped shape and develop the O2 Youth Matters research project, said: ‘Young people are very aware of the many challenges that face them today. The survey results provide evidence to show just how worried young people are. It’s a warning shot to society, showing that steps must be taken to build the resilience of our young people.’

Those questioned are clear on the steps necessary for improving their prospects, including:

  • The Government should incentivise employers to take on young people (81 per cent) and increase the number of on the job training opportunities (80 per cent)
  • Businesses to provide more structured volunteering programmes to develop work skills (73 per cent) and increase their involvement and support of careers advisory services (71 per cent)

More than two fifths (43 per cent) of those surveyed consider they have a responsibility to play a role in their local communities. A significant number of young adults are already making a positive contribution in their communities with 29 per cent volunteering their time for coaching sports, 23 per cent helping in schools, and 22 per cent supporting youth activities outside school.

O2 Think Big is an innovative £5 million programme designed to back young people aged 13-25 across the UK and help them harness their ideas, energy and passion to run projects and campaigns in their local community. The initiative works by putting cash directly in the hands of young people and supporting them to use the money in way which delivers a positive impact in their local area. In addition to the financial support, young people receive training and mentoring to help them tackle the local issues that really matter to them.


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