“Soft skills matter more than cognitive ability for general mental wellbeing (such as greater life satisfaction, mental health and wellbeing).”
There is widespread concern about young people’s mental health; the proportion of children and young people with a mental health condition has grown six-fold in England over two decades. The age group with the biggest increases are young people aged 16-24, with young people in England almost 10 times more likely to report a long-standing mental health condition in 2014 than in 1995 (5.9% compared to 0.6%).
Research from University College London and the Anna Freud Centre (Journal of Adolescent Health 2015) found that problems such as low self-confidence, mild anxiety and deep unhappiness — all risk factors for more serious mental illnesses — rose in girls by 55 per cent from 2009 to 2014 (while similar factors were unchanged in boys).
These findings are echoed in research from NHS Digital (September 2016), which shows that young women aged 16 – 24 are now a “high-risk group”, 3 times more likely as men to be suffering from depression and anxiety.
However, there is a known underdiagnosis of men’s mental health problems, which often manifest in other ways, such as drug and alcohol dependency, anti-social or criminal behaviour, and suicide – the most common cause of death in men under 45.
Soft skills improve all young people’s abilities to make positive life choices, and to develop healthy relationships.
Research undertaken of our programmes’ impact (see chart) showed that as young people understand more about the value of soft skills and how to develop them, they also experience an increased sense of preparedness for work and optimism about life. Optimism has a significant impact on wellbeing and mental health (US National Library of Medicine, 2010).
“Soft skills development is extremely important and can make all the difference to a young person’s life. Yet it’s very difficult for us to deliver them within the regular curriculum.”
Naz Deen, Careers Advisor, Haringey 6th Form Centre