Young people ditching ambitions over UK cost of living crisis, research finds

Young people are abandoning their dreams and ambitions because of the cost of living crisis and mental health concerns, new research has found.

Harbouring hopes for an enjoyable career that makes them financially secure seems unimaginable and too risky, with young people saying they are only able to plan for the short term: half of those surveyed said they were not able to think beyond the next six months.

Two-thirds of the 18- to 24-year-olds who were questioned for the research have lowered their career expectations, with the cost of living, the state of the UK economy and their own mental health named as the biggest factors.

“This research provides a blunt warning that the cost of living crisis threatens the futures, aspirations and wellbeing of an entire generation, if we do not act now,” said Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust.

The research, based on interviews with 2,500 young people, was carried out for the Prince’s Trust with the LadBible Group, with a consumer youth panel consisting of over 55,000 Gen Zs, born between 1997 and 2012, and millennials, born between 1981 and 1996.

“Young people have already had an integral part of their lives disrupted by the pandemic, whether it be their education or early careers, and these findings show that the continued economic uncertainty is forcing them to make decisions which will compound this further,” Townsend added.

“We’re seeing young people left feeling worried and unconfident about ever achieving their aspirations and thinking only in the short term – this could have significant impact for their futures and for wider society.”

A lack of self-confidence was cited as among the biggest problems by young people in achieving their ambitions, along with a lack of opportunity and experience. Working part-time, running their own businesses, and working remotely were at the bottom of their priorities for a dream job.

The nationwide study found 73% of those questioned were anxious about their futures because of the cost of living crisis. Over two-thirds believed they would never be financially secure.

The report also found the cost of living crisis had forced over a quarter of the young people questioned to either leave education or start thinking about leaving it. At least 44% of those living at home said they could not move out because they were needed to help their families pay the household bills.

When asked about their long-term life goals, maintaining good physical and mental health and simply living happily were among the top answers.

The findings echo prior research from the Prince’s Trust that found wellbeing among young people was at a 15-year, all-time low. That research found almost half of the young people felt hopeless about the future. It was the lowest outcome in all the years the trust has been running its NatWest youth index, including when it launched during the global financial crisis.

In the new research, almost two-thirds of young people said they needed to prioritise any job over their dream job. At least 40% had changed their career plans in the past year. Almost 60% said they had lowered their long-term aspirations over the past two years.

Vicki Nash, associate director of policy, campaigns and public affairs at Mind, the mental health charity, said: “When the country is struggling with widespread economic difficulties, it can really affect the mental health of younger people, with jobs being harder to find and worries about our financial safety being an everyday occurrence.

“Mind’s own polling earlier this year showed that the mental health of 59% of people aged 16 to 24 in England and Wales had been impacted by the state of Britain’s economy, showing just how prevalent these worries are.”

Emily Driscoll, head of data, intelligence and planning at LadBible Group, said: “This research offers an in-depth look at how younger people are planning their careers, and the impact the cost of living crisis is having not only on the now but on young people’s futures and aspirations.”