Young Europeans are increasingly experiencing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and loneliness. Global events such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have exacerbated this trend in recent years.
The mental well-being of our young people must be a priority. However, we lack the data needed at European level on young people’s mental health issues in the EU to enable us to understand and address this growing problem effectively.
For this reason, at Renew Europe we launched a survey involving nearly 700 young people from 20 European Member States. The survey pursued three clear objectives: learn about the mental health of young people in Europe, find out what are the obstacles they face to access to adequate care, and understand where political efforts should be directed to give them quality mental health support. We focused the survey on young people between 18 and 35 years old, and reached the majority of respondents through our social media channels.
Centramos la encuesta en jóvenes de entre 18 y 35 años, y llegamos a la mayoría de los encuestados a través de nuestros canales de redes sociales.
First, we asked respondents to talk to us a little bit about their lives, their age and their employment status. Half of the respondents are young people between the ages of 15 and 25 and the other half between 25 and 35. One third of them study, another third work and the others combine studies and jobs or were unemployed at the time of the survey.
Self-perception of your mental health status
The results show that mental health is an important issue for our respondents and, unfortunately, many of them seem to be dealing with mental health issues. About 60 % consider their mental health to be bad or very bad and only 3.5 % said their mental health was excellent. This contrasts with the following data: only 40 % of respondents sought support to overcome their mental health problems in the past 12 months.
Society is not used to talk openly about mental health or how to seek support. When we asked our respondents how difficult was for them to talk about this issue, we found that 406 of the respondents had difficulties with talking openly about their mental health. In fact, one of the current problems around mental health is its stigmatisation. Stigmas associated with mental health arise from several factors, such as lack of knowledge and understanding about mental illness, misinformation and prejudice. Mental illness is considered taboo or a sign of weakness, which can lead to discrimination and social rejection. In addition, the media often portrays people with mental illness in a negative and stereotypical way, which contributes to perpetuate this stigma and discrimination. Ultimately, stigma limits people in seeking treatment, which can worsen their mental health status and limit their ability to lead a full and healthy life.
In addition, several studies recognise a link between lack of sleep and mental health problems. While sleep deprivation is known to be a symptom of adolescent depression, some studies suggest that sleep difficulties may arise before depression develops.
We also asked them if they felt they could have accomplished more in life if they hadn’t suffered from mental health problems. More than 70 % of respondents answered ‘yes’ to this question.
Getting help in mental health
Next, we focus on knowing what are the obstacles that young people face to obtain adequate mental health support.
44 % of respondents indicate that mental health services are not very accessible in their country.
The main obstacles to obtaining such support that respondents point out are:
- Economic cost (27,51)
- Long waiting lists (25.66 %)
- Fear of being stigmatised or discriminated against (15.64 %)
To a lesser extent, it is also important to mention other responses such as the respondents’ fear of needing to take medication or being hospitalised (11.79 %) or the absence of mental health services in their communities (6.82 %), among others.
The impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine on the mental health of young Europeans
We know from other studies that Covid-19 had a major impact on the mental health of young people in Europe. Our survey reflects this. Most respondents also feel that the war in Ukraine (51.6 %) and the pandemic (70.8 %) had an impact on their mental health.
Social media and mental health
57, 2 % of respondents believe that social media has a negative impact on their mental health. Social media is considered a major factor in the worsening of mental health problems. Despite this, young people also recognize that these platforms allow them to connect with each other and, on many occasions, find the right support, which is positive.
The role of the European Union
Finally, when asked what Europe can do to improve the mental health of its young people, respondents emphasised the importance of ensuring mental health education from an early age, the existence of affordable services and care, and mechanisms for preventing various diseases in the workplace.
You can download the survey results here
For a European mental health strategy
The results of this survey were sent to the Commission through the Call for Evidence procedure. At Renew Europe, we will continue to call on the Commission to urgently adopt a European mental health strategythat ensures access to quality and affordable mental health care for all young people in the EUThere is no real health, without mental health. Let’s give it the space and means it requires.