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Young people in deprived areas less likely to receive mental health support, study finds

A photograph of a student studying


  • Young people in deprived areas of the UK are less likely to receive mental health support than their peers.

  • Non-binary+ young people are more likely to experience high psychological distress and seek support for their mental health.

  • Researchers call for sustainable and well-funded mental health support for all young people, with a focus on improving services in deprived areas and for non-binary+ students.

A new study has found that young people in the most deprived areas of the UK are less likely to receive the mental health support they need compared with their peers.

The study, which was conducted by the UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, and the Sutton Trust, surveyed over 11,000 Year 13 students between October 2022 and February 2023.

The report found that a quarter of Year 13 students sought mental health support over the past year, but many struggled to access services. Over a third of those who sought help reported that they had not received it or were on a waiting list.

Additionally, nearly two in five young people in the poorest parts of England reported waiting or not receiving the support they applied for, compared with 28% in the most affluent areas.

The study also found that non-binary+ young people were more likely to be classified as having high psychological distress (74%) compared with females (56%) and males (32%). Non-binary+ young people (67%) were also more likely to report seeking support for their mental health than females (33%) and males (15%).

The researchers called for sustainable and well-funded support for young people experiencing mental health issues, with a focus on improving services in the most deprived areas. They also recommended that schools develop more tailored support for non-binary and LGBTQ+ students.

What do these findings mean?

The findings of this study have important implications for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.

On a policy level, the study highlights the need for increased investment in mental health services for young people, particularly in deprived areas. The government should also consider ways to reduce waiting lists for mental health services and to make services more accessible to all young people, regardless of their background.

At the practitioner level, the study suggests that schools and other youth-serving organisations need to do more to support young people's mental health. This could involve providing more tailored support for non-binary and LGBTQ+ students, as well as raising awareness of mental health issues and promoting help-seeking behaviour.

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