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Young Adults 2020: IF Index of young adults’ wellbeing

This report is the latest Index of Wellbeing from IF and it overturns the common assumption of ever-improving living standards by showing that the current generation of 20-somethings now has a worse quality of life than their parents’ generation.

The IF Index, which analyses 17 statistical indicators for 18 to 26 year-olds, starting in 1991 and running through until 2017/18, finds that today’s twentysomethings have 8% lower overall scores for “wellbeing”, when broken down to the wellbeing areas: economic, work, social, physical and mental health, and belonging.

The largest deterioration is found in the social wellbeing indicator – which fell by more than 70% during the period. This is largely because of a decline in the “relationship status” indicator. In 1991, 36% of young adults were either married or living as a couple. Fast forward to 2017/18 and just 13% of young adults were in settled relationships, equivalent to a decline of almost two-thirds. In previous wellbeing research, having successful intimate relationships has consistently been shown to be one of the most significant variables for predicting positive wellbeing. The quality of relationships that today’s twentysomethings have with their family also appears to be under strain, falling from 34% in 1991 to 16% in 2017/18.

The research also highlights how the living standards of young adults have stagnated during this period, as the average working member of this age group was earning only 1% more in real terms than their counterpart was in 1991 despite being much more likely to have a university degree. 

On a more positive note, “Belonging” wellbeing has seen a dramatic improvement since an all-time low in 2013/14, thanks to much higher democratic participation due to the EU Referendum and General Elections in 2015 and 2017.