This summer, like any other, is results season. Young people across the country are collecting pieces of paper which will determine their future. If you watch any YouTube reaction video or speak to anyone before they get their results, the main and unifying emotion is that of fear.


The younger generation’s relationship to fear is a complex one and one very different from that of previous generations. Firstly, for many, fear of authority has gone. Speaking to a teacher from Essex, I was told:

‘students no longer respect authority. Students used to respect teachers as they could teach them the things that would lead to a good future’.

Many attribute this to the age of information. A student can find out exactly what the teacher knows in a few seconds by Googling.

Similarly, fear of God  is decreasing with record numbers of young people identifying as atheists. In the UK, 70 per cent of young people said they have no religious affiliation. Parents are also amongst the things no longer feared. In fact, a growing fear of children (known as ephebiphobia) has been reported.

So are young people fearless? The answer is still no. Results days epitomise the fears of many. Young people’s fear has moved away from the fear of authority to that of our own failure.

Every young person I spoke to listed failure as one of their biggest fears. A Vice survey found that the biggest fear of young adults was not finding love.

Why has this transition happened? It seems probable that new social pressures and the expectation to conform being ever more crippling, have led to this epidemic of self-fear and doubt. Mental health statistics for young people are at an all-time high and many cases of anxiety in students have been linked to academic attainment.

The political situation isn’t helping either. The chance of owning a house demands ever more lucrative jobs. The chance of getting those jobs demands ever more skills and unique attributes. These pressures and higher standards in order to achieve leave young people uncertain and fearing their chances of a financially stable and happy life.

The Vice study identifying not finding love as the biggest fear amongst young adults again references this fear of oneself. Falling self-esteem amongst young people is making them afraid nobody will love them. Of course, this is a vicious cycle; this fear causes even lower self-esteem and the lack of confidence resulting from this could lead to a generation of nervous singletons. Similarly, the fear of failure means many young people develop mental illnesses which can easily affect their performance in exams.

Young people’s relationship with fear is complex and very easily damaging. Putting pressure on yourself leads to fear of failure but this is also the drive that many are prided on. Is this fear an inevitable and necessary by-product of success? It is true that the most successful people are driven but we cannot let ‘drive’ be responsible for something that affects the mental health of so many young people. It is also a worsening problem. The NSPCC reported 21 per cent more counselling sessions taking place in 2016 that dealt with exam stress than the year before.

We need to look at the way pressure is affecting young people and maybe a reform to the exam system is the way to go. This is the generation that wishes for a monster under the bed to keep them away from waking life.