An exclusive Sky News/Ipsos poll has found that young people are feeling increasingly lonely – with the cost of living crisis leading many to take on extra work, move in with their parents and cut back on socialising.
The poll, conducted in December, found 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds felt lonelier this winter than they did a year earlier.
England’s last remaining COVID regulations were lifted nearly a year ago, but the cost of living crisis means young people are struggling to take advantage of their new freedoms.
The effects of inflation mean almost half of those aged 16 to 25 fear they will never earn enough to start a family, a report found, while other research has found young people are likely to be “cautiously hopeful” but “struggling” in 2023.
But many young people are having to work more than one job to make ends meet.
Fizah, 22, a student at a university in Manchester, feels like she has no choice but to take up two jobs alongside her studies.
“It’s just so I can pay for the essentials of my rent, food and travel,” she says.
The extra work leaves little time for socialising.
She said: “You’re taking yourself away from your social group, your family and friends, which mentally detaches you a lot.”
Fizah isn’t alone.
Some 36% of young people surveyed said that they have less free time than they did a year ago, compared with just 24% of the public as a whole.
Ipsos surveyed 2,235 British adults, including 400 people aged 18 to 24, between the 7 and 9 of December.
It found that 45% of young people had taken on more hours at work since January 2022 due to rising prices, while 21% said they had taken on a second job as a result of the spending squeeze.
And in a bid to avoid rising rents and energy bills, nearly 23% have moved in with family.
‘We’ve been rationing the heating’
Even for those living with their parents to reduce costs, the stress and social isolation caused by rising prices can be significant.
Tasnia, 20, who lives with her mum in Tower Hamlets, says that the cost of living crisis has exacerbated her depression and made it harder to find a job.
“There are times where I’m going into overdraft simply to get to [job interviews],” she says.
The main financial pressure comes from energy bills.
She said: “We’ve been rationing the heating a lot lately … We can only use it three times a day.”
Nearly two in five young people surveyed told Sky News that they had found it difficult or very difficult to pay their energy bills over the last three months.
The poll also found that young people were more than twice as likely to report missing energy bill payments as the general public, while 18% said they had fallen behind on housing payments.
Others have staved off falling behind on bills in ways that may be difficult to sustain.
While 27% said that they had used savings to pay energy bills in the past three months, 19% have had to borrow money.
Young people are less likely to have savings to fall back on than other age groups. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, between 2018 and 2020, 34% of people aged 16 to 34 had more debt than savings – compared with just 11% of over-55s.
After paying their bills, Tasnia and her mum are struggling to budget £50 for a month’s groceries.
“It’s taken a massive toll on my mental health,” Tasnia said. “It’s inevitable that even considering going to a food bank might make you feel like a burden or a charity case. It’s really rough.”
Tasnia has also cut back on social gatherings because she “just can’t afford it”.
“It feels really isolating,” she says.
‘We need help’
The cost of living crisis has made it difficult for Jem, 26, to move out of her parents’ home.
“My social life is gone,” she says. “I can’t invite friends or partners around.”
Jem says it feels like young people have been “forgotten about” by the government.
She added: “We need help, we need support.”
In the Sky News survey, 22% of young people said that the UK’s political system works for people like them – with just 18% saying that it works for people on low incomes.
By contrast, the majority of young people surveyed said that the system works well for high earners and large businesses.
“Young people have been given little to no support in the last few years,” says Jem.
“We can’t do the jobs we’re qualified for, we can’t do the jobs we want to do.
“And then by our mid-20s, we feel like failures having to stay at home or stay in jobs we don’t actually like – all because the government doesn’t want to know that we are desperate for help.”
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