Nadiya Hussain is one of Britain’s most famous chefs. Since winning The Great British Bake Off in 2015, she has hosted or contributed to a wide variety of cooking and other popular television shows in the United Kingdom. More recently, however, she has also become known for publicizing the mental health struggles, especially with anxiety, that have been part of her life for years.
The story of Hussain, who is now in her mid-thirties, highlights a critical issue: The youngest adults in the workforce today, those 18 to 30 years old, are particularly affected by mental health challenges and are also the least prepared to deal with them. Companies can and should step up to help them.
The findings from our surveys of 3,884 UK workers revealed that by the time they are 30 years old, 95% of them have been touched by mental health challenges — either their own, or those of a friend, family member, or colleague. Three out of four have experienced personal challenges. Just under half have had suicidal thoughts or feelings.
Accenture also found that workers aged 18 to 30 perceived almost twice as much pressure in their lives as their more senior peers. They’re more likely to be worrying about debt or struggling to pay their bills, which adds to their stress. And they are more reluctant than their older peers to let their employers know when they’re having problems.
These same workers are also significantly under-prepared to handle work-associated pressures or address mental health challenges. While schools and universities are stepping up training efforts, four in 10 of workers under 26 reported they had received no information or advice about taking care of their mental health before entering the workforce as part of their education. (Only two in 10 workers over the age of 40 reported that they have received training.)
The financial case alone provides a compelling reason for companies to take action in addressing this need: In 2017, an independent review commissioned by the British prime minister put the annual cost to UK employers of poor mental health in workers at between £33 billion and £42 billion ($44.6 billion and $56.7 billion).
But increasingly, businesses are also looking at mental health in the wider context of building more inclusive and diverse workplace cultures. And our study found that, in organizations that emphasize the importance of mental health, employees of all ages are almost four times more likely to say that work has a positive influence on them. Moreover, young employees were almost 37% less likely to have faced a recent mental health challenge, but twice as likely to say they can or could cope with one at work.