Money worries contribute to lowest recorded happiness levels among young
Financial worries are affecting student mental health as recorded levels of happiness among young people reach their lowest figure, according to a growing body of research.
A national survey by the Prince’s Trust recently revealed young people’s well-being is at its lowest level since the survey began in 2009, with the biggest decline in its two main markers — ‘happiness’ and ‘confidence’ — relating to education or work, health and money.
Over half (54%) of 16- to 25-year-olds reported being worried about their finances.
Of the 2,194 respondents, three in five young people said they regularly feel stressed amid concerns over jobs and money, while half have experienced a mental health problem.
The findings echo research carried out in 2017 which exposed a similar situation among students.
The National Student Money Survey showed that 84% of students worry about making ends meet. Around half said this causes their mental health to suffer, while 34% reported an effect on their grades.
Since tuition fees were tripled to £9,000 a year in 2012, students have been saddled with huge financial pressures, particularly those in England. Recent legislation now also allows universities to raise fees annually in line with inflation.
Maintenance loans currently average £4,730 per academic year in England and £3,090 in Northern Ireland — leaving the average student £221 short each month on accumulated outgoings such as rent, bills and food shopping.
As a result, the country’s graduates now owe more money than anywhere else in the English-speaking world, it has been reported.
Rachel Piper, policy manager at mental health charity Student Minds, said: “At university, it may be the first time that a student is managing their own finances, and we know that the cost of living can pose a significant challenge to a number of students — and this stressor may impact on their wellbeing.
“Equally, if you’re experiencing a mental health difficulty, you might find that you feel isolated or anxious about your ability to manage your finances. You may also feel unable to make informed financial decisions and you might be incurring treatment costs.”
Previous research has confirmed the link between mental health issues among students and financial worries, making money management support crucial in keeping additional anxiety at bay.
Stacey Turner, managing director at Split the Bills, said: “Being a student is a great experience but it comes with its fair share of challenges — living within a strict budget being one of them.
“As it’s often the first time they’re financially responsible for food, rent and utilities, students can understandably feel daunted and stressed.
“Accessing help with things like managing household bills can take that burden away and bring a sense of shared responsibility among housemates.”
Students who are struggling with money and feel it is having an impact on their mental health can access support from their university. In addition, there are a number of external organisations that offer help and advice, including the National Association of Student Money Advisers, Studential and The Student Room.
A bit about our contributor Split the Bills
Split the Bills was founded in 2011 by former student Ashley, who wanted to create a simpler way to set up and pay utility bills in shared households. To find out more, go to www.splitthebills.co.uk