Severe mental health difficulties among 17-year-olds

Research by the UCL's Centre for Longitudinal Studies in partnership with NCB, provides evidence of widespread mental health difficulties among the UK’s 'Generation Z' before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

This research, which is published in a briefing paper by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the UCL Social Research Institute, working in partnership with the National Children's Bureau, provides evidence of widespread mental health difficulties among the UK’s Generation Z before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.


Using new data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a nationally representative study of teenagers born in 2000-02, this research also reveals stark inequalities in levels of psychological distress, with females, white teenagers, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and sexual minority teens all more likely to experience mental ill-health.

The authors analysed information collected from more than 10,000 young people who have all been taking part in the MCS since they were born. In 2018-19 when study members were aged 17, they answered a series of questions about their mental health over the preceding month, whether they had self-harmed in the last year, and if they had ever self-harmed with suicidal intent.

NCB worked with the the Centre of Longitudinal Studies to develop policy recommendations based on the findings and our consultation with young people themselves.


NCB’s believes that the threat to young people’s mental health is as serious a threat to long-term health as the pandemic itself. The huge scale of need was evident before COVID-19, but rising poverty, uncertainty about the future, bereavement and a host of other challenges are making things far worse. More of the same is not an option. We need a fundamental re-think of what support this generation of young people need, and we must start by asking them what that is. Only by working in partnership with young people can we begin to repair the damage and help them see a brighter future ahead.

Find out more about our vison for supporting children and families during the current crisis and beyond, in this article by our Chief Executive, Anna Feuchtwang.