As part of our Young People’s Future Health Inquiry, we spoke to young people (aged 22-26) from across the UK to discover the factors that helped or hindered them in their transition to adulthood.
During our conversations, young people identified four main assets as having the most influence over their life experiences and their chances for the future.
1. Appropriate skills and qualifications
Whether young people have a chance to acquire the right academic or technical qualifications was thought to have a big impact. This was not necessarily about what level of education they had, more whether they had the appropriate skills to pursue their chosen career, whether that be as an electrician, solicitor, nurse etc.
An Opinion Matters poll of 2,000 22-26 year-olds commissioned by the Health Foundation found that 92% of young people thought it was important to have the opportunity to achieve the right skills and qualifications for their chosen careers, but less than half believed they fully had this opportunity.
‘The school system is flawed because it was created for a different time, which we have evolved from. It is too focused on academic levels and grades and doesn’t allow us to think about alternatives like practical apprenticeships.’ – Bristol
2. Personal connections
Whether young people had confidence in themselves was important, along with whether they had access to social networks or mentors who are able to offer them appropriate advice and guidance on navigating the adult world.
Young people highlighted the importance of having personal connections who could help when it came to employment. These connections provided them with advice, networks and confidence. For some, family members or mentors were fundamental to helping them start their careers.
However, although 89% young people in our poll spoke about the importance of having the right relationships and networking opportunities to help them enter and progress through the working environment, just 31% felt they fully had these growing up. Even for those who were highly qualified, a lack of personal connections meant they were struggling to step onto the career ladder.
‘My dad can talk about plumbing for years but if I want to be a doctor I don’t know if he can give me a step up.’ – North Ayrshire
3. Financial and practical support
Over three-quarters (77%) of young people we polled said that having financial and practical support from family was important, but less than half (46%) felt they fully had these growing up. This could be direct financial support from parents/carers, being able to live at home at no cost, as well as practical assistance such as help with childcare.
Young people who lacked a strong safety net found housing experiences particularly stressful. In some cases, needing to move out of the family home resulted in them relying on benefits and low-cost housing.
Conversely, other young people, especially those from more affluent backgrounds, suggested they relied on parents/carers to cover, or contribute to, their bills and rent while they were at university or after moving out of the family home.
‘I can only afford it through class privilege. I 100% do not currently have the income to pay for this flat.’ – Newtownabbey
4. Emotional support
Having people in your life that you can rely on emotionally for support and encouragement also emerged as a necessary asset during the transition to adulthood. This could include parents/carers, partners and friends, as well as mentors – just an important person or persons who a young person can talk to and be open and honest with, and who supports their goals in life.
Unfortunately, having strong emotional support was not a universal experience. In our poll, 90% said that having emotional support from family is important, but less than half (49%) felt that they fully had this growing up.
Some young people lacked emotional support in any form as they had unhealthy or fractured relationships with their family, partners or friends and no access to any additional support such as a mentor. In other cases, young people had very supportive families but felt isolated from them as they had moved away for work or university.
‘I am strongly supported by my friends and family, I don’t know what I’d do with them.’ - Bristol
‘Living on the estates that we do, there is a strong support network.’ - Bradford
What happens if you grow up without these assets?
Speaking directly to young people highlighted the impact on those who didn’t have these four key assets. Typically, the young people who lacked these assets were already, by their mid-20s, finding it harder to secure a good home and employment, and build and maintain stable relationships with friends and family. This is likely to have a long-term impact on their future health.
Find out more
- For a much more detailed discussion of the findings from our engagement exercise with young people, download our report: Listening to our future: early findings from the young people’s future health inquiry.
- For a look at the wealth of evidence backing up the findings from our inquiry so far, read our literature review: The social determinants of young people’s health.
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