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Sep 21, 2015 05:12 PM EDT

Unemployed Young Adults Are More Likely To Experience Mental Health Problems

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New research suggests that young people who are not in school and unemployed are more likely to experience mental health problems.

An international team of researchers found that nearly 60 percent of young adults not in school or employed had already experienced more than one mental health problem in childhood or adolescence, compared to around 35 percent of young people who were in education, employment or training.

"Our findings indicate that while the struggle to find work appears to take its toll on the mental health of young people, this does not appear to be an issue of motivation. The majority of 18 year olds we spoke to were endeavoring to find jobs and committed to the idea of work, although they are perhaps hampered by a lack of skills that would serve them well in the job market," Terrie Moffitt, co-author of the study from King's College London, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 2,000 British young people transitioning from compulsory schooling to early adulthood at the age of 18. Twelve percent of the participants were not in education, employment or training.  Researchers assessed commitment to work, mental health problems and substance use disorders.

Researchers also found that 35 percent of participants not in school or employed suffered from depression compared to 18 percent of those in school or working.  Fourteen percent of those without a job and education had generalized anxiety disorder, compared to 6 percent of their counterparts.

In a follow-up analysis the researchers accounted for pre-existing vulnerability to mental health problems and found that the impact on mental health remained large and statistically significant in nearly all cases.

"Young  people who are neither working nor studying are often assumed to be unmotivated or unwilling to work, yet our study suggests that they are just as motivated as their peers -- but many face psychological challenges that put them at a disadvantage when seeking employment," Louise Arseneault, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

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