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Covid has left a third of young people feeling life is out of control – study

More than a third of young people feel their life is spiralling out of control, according to findings released to the Guardian ahead of a nationwide campaign that highlights Covid’s impact on the younger generation.

The Prince’s Trust Class of Covid research also found that more than 60% of 16-25-year-olds said they were scared about their generation’s future, having lived through a pandemic only to face a cost-of-living crisis.One in three think their job prospects will never recover from the pandemic.

“Young people today are facing unique challenges which threaten the futures and aspirations of an entire generation if we don’t act,” said Jonathan Townsend, the charity’s UK chief executive.

“Their education, employment and key formative years have already suffered, leaving many feeling uncertain and scared about a future which appears to be spiralling out of their control,” he said. “Despite high vacancies, young people remain worried about their future career prospects.”

The research, which surveyed more than 2,000 young people across the UK, is part of a campaign the charity is launching this week to raise awareness of the longer-term impact of the pandemic on the younger generation.

Almost half of those surveyed said living through the pandemic had made them more resilient, and slightly over half said they were more determined to achieve their goals than previously.

“Young people have shown a unique resilience to overcome the challenges they have faced and are more determined than ever to achieve their goals,” said Townsend. “But they need our support to ensure their talents and aspirations do not go to waste.”

There is also evidence of widespread “retarded development” among young people as a result of missing developmental milestones during the pandemic, according to findings from the Savanta State of the Youth Nation report.

The report found that almost a quarter of 16-19-year-olds missed out on having their first kiss because of Covid. For those aged 20 to 25, the figure was was 17%.

A significant number also missed out on starting their first romantic relationship, with one in five of those aged 16 to 19 and 15% of those aged 20 to 25 not having a relationship when compared with the experiences of people of the same age before the pandemic.

The research by Savanta, a youth research specialistthat runs the country’s largest youth research panel, has asked more than 1,000 young people the same set of questions for the past seven years.

Researchers found that the pandemic had ushered in a new era of uncertainty and a lack of self-confidence. “The impact of those two years of lost independence could have far-reaching consequences,” said Josephine Hamson, the organisation’s vice-president. “There are all sorts of key developmental milestones missed that could well hold young people back now the world has opened up again.”

Almost 60% of young people who lived alone during the pandemic told researchers they now lacked the confidence to make up their own minds, compared with 40% before the pandemic.

For those who lived with their parents during the pandemic, the dip in confidence was significantly less marked, with 47% saying they could make up their own minds, compared with 52% before the pandemic.

The report also found that young people who experienced disruptions in starting work or who had to work online were confused about what to expect from the world of work. Before the pandemic, 68% of young people felt work was what they expected. Post-pandemic, the figure has fallen to 49%.

The research also shows young people are less confident about performing tasks at work. The proportion of those who feel able to focus on one task for a sustained period fell from 55% pre-pandemic to 39% post-pandemic.

Having the confidence to have conversations with management is another area where young people struggle, with 21% feeling able to talk to senior people at work compared with 37% before the pandemic.

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