High unemployment among young people poses a risk for mental ill health and creates an evil circle which in the long term can result in youths ending up outside the labour market. “Ending up excluded from working life increases the risk for mental ill health,” says Lars Fredén who has coordinated a compilation of research within the field.

The conference ”Young and Exposed – Good examples of mental health” (Ung och Utsatt), held at the Nordic School of Public Health May 5-6 will provide positive examples on how to prevent such a development.
The Nordic labour markets are characterized by higher youth unemployment in comparison with other European countries. The threshold for entering the labour market is therefore relatively high in the Nordic countries. The conference Young and Vulnerable will provide positive examples and new perspectives on mental health work in the Nordic countries. Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, Professor of Child Public Health at the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf and Richard Barker, Professor Emeritus of Child Welfare at Northumbria University, Newcastle, are two of the participants who will also provide an international perspective.
Decreased mental health
A report examining research carried out regarding mental ill health among youths in relation to unemployment will be presented during the conference.
“When unemployment is followed by decreased mental health the motivation for finding a new job can disappear, which in turn increases the risk for permanent alienation,” says Associate Professor Lars Fredén, Nordic School of Public Health.
The report is a compilation of studies focusing on the connection between unemployment and mental health among young people aged 15-29 from the year 1995 to the present. The research shows a tendency of young unemployed women being more vulnerable and that unemployment is more harmful for young adults compared to other adults. Financial difficulties, lacking social integration and shame all play their part.
Labour market measures are characterized by attempts to activate young people. They are offered measures which can consist of education or work-oriented activities, in order to qualify for future work. Those not accepting the measures receive no support.
“We find that activation is connected to a reduction of mental ill health. Measures should however be evaluated based on their effect on mental health,” states Lars Fredén.
More research needed
The literature study shows that the number of young adults with mental health problems is increasing even among those who work or study. The reason for this development has not been established, yet it is worth noting that economic downturns may have a more comprehensive effect than previously thought.
The report also shows that research is influenced by the current economic situation and that new studies are needed.
The number of youths with immigrant backgrounds is increasing and there is not enough knowledge about different health issues seen in young people. Ensuring employment among as many as possible is the most important cure against health problems, the report concludes.
The first day of the conference will focus on the mental health of school-aged children, the second on young adults. There will be workshops during which researchers, care users, clinicians and decision makers can discuss and create opportunities for exchange of experiences. The conference will be held in Scandinavian languages and English.

For programme information and to sign up, please visit: www.nhv.se/ungochutsatt

lars.freden@nhv.se