The cost-of-living crisis has been a priority subject for several months now, but it seems that Britain’s youth are being neglected in the discussions. Under-30s in the UK right now are bearing the brunt of the financial crisis, with lower wages, a lack of financial knowledge and higher expenses to contend with. Young people are disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis, as well as being out of opportunities to gain access to well-paying jobs.

A vicious cycle of poverty

The cost-of-living crisis is making it harder for everyone to meet basic needs, from putting food on the table to paying fuel costs to get to work and keeping homes heated. But it’s more than just people struggling to pay their bills. It’s also limiting young people’s ability to access training and development opportunities, keeping them stuck in poverty due to not being able to apply for higher paying roles. The pressure on young people in the UK right now is putting them at higher risk of unemployment and leading to further stress and anxiety about the situation.

UK households are really feeling the pinch off the back of this financial crisis, which has been worsened by the war in Ukraine and COVID-19, leaving savers worried about the long-term concerns this will have on their financial health in the future. It’s a well-known fact that the earlier we can save for later in life, the more we’re about to make the most of compound interest and increase our financial security. But cost-of-living difficulties are making it challenging for young people to make the most of this for their future selves and dependents. The result is that what is a current issue could impact young people well into later life by preventing them from making wise financial decisions at the right time.

16-24-year-olds make up almost 800,000 of all people in the UK relying on Universal Credit, and the percentage of those depending on this support has increased since the pandemic. Increases in student loan burdens have also risen following the decision to freeze the threshold for repayments rather than have this rise in line with average income. So more young people are repaying at a time when they need the money for basic living needs.

Negatively impacting mental health

The stress that comes from constantly worrying whether you’ll have enough to fund your basic needs and those of your family takes its toll on your mental health — something that young people are noticing more and more. Research by youth charity ERYICA found that people as young as 11 are worried about the effect that rising costs are having on their household.

There’s increasing pressure on young people at the moment, particularly in low-income households already facing barriers to sustainable work and consistent income, which directly correlates to an increase in mental health concerns. Mental health charity, Mind, points out that money problems can lead to certain situations triggering anxiety and panic, sleep problems caused by worrying, and a lack of access to housing, food, water and medications that keep you well, physically and mentally. It can lead to people feeling isolated and lonely, which can further exacerbate mental health issues.

Tackling the impact of the cost of living

The pressures caused by the cost-of-living crisis have had a considerable effect on the physical and mental health of young people, increasing financial stress and anxiety over paying for basic needs, as well as impacting the opportunities they have access to. Organisations such as the YMCA offer welfare support and advice for young people to manage their finances correctly and help them gain training for better job prospects.

It’s clear that more needs to be done by the government to support young and vulnerable people. From changing Universal Credit payments to reflect the increase in the cost of living, to making salaries fairer and in line with inflation, as well as offering training and apprenticeships more widely to young people. The barriers faced by young people are getting harder to overcome, especially since some of the risks posed by the crisis are worse for those already marginalised.

Having a safe and warm home, enough food on the table and opportunities to create a better life are things that everyone should have access to. But the cost-of-living crisis is a challenge that all of us will be facing for some time to come, putting stress on organisations and services determined to help people in need. The fact remains, individuals can only do so much. Change needs to come from the top to help people of all ages overcome this difficult time.