The impact of increasingly complex wellbeing challenges faced by young people in Britain today is brought into sharp focus with the publication of the first findings from the 2024 STADA Health Report (24 June 2024).  

Amongst a wealth of data examining our country’s resilience, the findings highlight the consuming concerns of the UK’s young adults, around body image, loneliness and sense of self – all amplified by the pervasive presence of social media in almost every aspect of their daily life. 

The report reveals a generation grappling with unrealistic beauty standards and feelings of isolation.  

Nearly two-thirds of young adults (65 per cent) say they are lonely with one in three (32 per cent) directly attributing loneliness to the excessive amount of time they spend online. More than one in ten (13 per cent) of 18-24-year-olds say they always feel lonely and one in five (19 per cent) describe their loneliness as ‘severe’. A correlation between body image concerns and excessive time on social media is clearly demonstrated. Indeed, 70 per cent of Brits with poor mental health say they want stricter regulations on social media beauty filters.  

These findings are just some of the revelations in the 2024 STADA Health Report, published by global healthcare leader STADA, parent company of Thornton & Ross, the pharmaceutical giant behind some of the biggest names in medicine and cleaning cupboards in the UK, and the firm behind brands like Covonia®, Cetraben®, Hedrin®, Savlon® and Zoflora®. The independently conducted Health Report, now in its 10th year, surveys more than 46,000 respondents from 23 countries, with 2,000 respondents from the UK.  

The research paints a truly concerning picture of the wellbeing of young people (18-24 years old), showing body image  – a major worry – is being further compounded by social scrolling. The most common reasons for dissatisfaction with appearance in this age group are weight concerns and social media comparisons. Indeed, over two thirds (68 per cent) of young people with poor mental health and a higher than average BMI report the time they spend comparing themselves to the bodies they see on social media makes them feel worse about themselves. 

Insta-grief: social media makes young women feel like ugly ducklings   

The report reveals social media is significantly undermining young women’s self-esteem. Nearly half (45 per cent) of British 18-24 year-olds constantly compare themselves to the influencers they see online, with 38 per cent of young women struggling with low self-worth, saying they feel they can’t match the perfect bodies they see on their feed every day. 

Very sadly, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of young women say they have been bullied about their looks, thanks to unrealistic online standards. Possibly as a result, in a desperate bid to fit in, a disturbing number of young women, more than one in ten (12 per cent), are resorting to potentially unhealthy eating habits to emulate social media stars.  

Shortchanged & single? Brit blokes feeling low about love and locks  

Young British blokes don’t seem to have it much easier than young women. Feeling like a ‘short king’ doesn’t seem to be a universal experience, with most British men just feeling small, and not perfectly formed. Two-thirds (a whopping 66 per cent) of young men who say their mental health is poor, cite worries about their height, feeling they just don’t measure up.  

Social media might be awash with ‘short kings’ thanks to celebs such as Jeremy Allan White and Barry Keoghan – both 5’8”, but the reality is only 30 per cent of women on dating apps are looking for a man under 5’11”, according to dating app Bumble.  

Another surprising concern for young men in the UK is the ‘bald blues’; more than one in three (34 per cent) of 18-24 year-old guys are already worrying about losing their hair. 

If Brits had the cash, they would grin and bear it 

Putting aside the array of other issues impacting many young adults in the UK today such as the cost-of-living crisis, increasing student loan repayments and soaring rent prices, Brits have, seemingly, had plenty of time for introspection on what they would do to alter their appearance, if money were no object. 

That pesky stereotype about bad British teeth? It turns out there might be something to it. More than half of Brits – a whopping 58 per cent – would splurge on a dazzling new smile if cash wasn’t an issue.  

Pearly whites aren’t the only thing Brits are hoping will make them feel happier about themselves – many are yearning for a full-on Hollywood makeover:  

  • Forget gym memberships, a whopping 31 per cent of Brits under 34 would consider weight loss surgery, compared to just 19 per cent of their older counterparts 
  • Botox-mania: Nearly 40 per cent of Brits would plump for injectables such as Botox and fillers to achieve that wrinkle-free, youthful look 
  • Brits already going gaga for tattoos: It turns out almost a quarter of Brits (23 per cent) under 34 are already inked, so with unlimited funds that number could skyrocket  
  • Plastic fantastic: Over a quarter (28 per cent) of young adults (18-34) would readily go under the knife for any number of procedures!   

Dr. Google to the Rescue? Brits googling symptoms & flocking to AI ‘chat-docs’ but would miss the human touch!  

Brits are increasingly turning to tech for quick answers to their health woes, the report shows. The number of people in the UK now Googling their symptoms instead of seeing a doctor has reached more than half the population  – 56 per cent of people in the UK are!  One in ten are even turning to AI chatbots, or you could call them ‘Chat-docs’, for a diagnosis! 

Despite the tech boom, 40 per cent of Brits still have negative feelings about AI in healthcare. It seems Brits are willing to play doctor online, but they’re not quite ready to fully put their lives in their artificial hands! 

The well-being war: Golden Oldies vs stressed Zillennials 

The STADA report reveals a surprising generation gap in how Brits approach wellbeing. While the “golden generation” of over-70s prioritise brain training with activities such as crosswords and sudoku (58 per cent), stressed young adults (18-24) seem less enthusiastic. Despite a significant portion (45 per cent) saying they often feel burnout, a staggering 57 per cent of Gen Z (18-24) report lacking the motivation to actively improve their mental health. 

This disconnect extends to preferred wellbeing strategies. Only 52 per cent of Gen Z prioritise a healthy diet compared to 71 per cent of older adults. Interestingly, both generations value social connection. Nearly half (45 per cent) of 18-24 year olds find connecting with others beneficial, a figure almost matching the “golden generation” (43 per cent of those over 70). 

This highlights a potential silver lining. While a significant portion of young adults (45 per cent) are experiencing burnout (compared to only 25 per cent of those over 35), their desire for social connection suggests a willingness to engage in well-being solutions; solutions that don’t involve a crossword puzzle! 

Nigel Stephenson, general manager at STADA, Thornton & Ross, said: “This year’s report has brought to light many shifts in attitudes towards the way we manage our health both as a nation and at a personal level. But one of the standout concerns has got to be the clear demonstration of a correlation with significant mental health struggles with almost half of young people in the UK aged 18-24 saying they are comparing themselves to unrealistic standards perpetuated by social media influencers. The concern must surely be that this could be storing up even bigger issues in terms of both physical and mental health in the future for older generations to contend with. 

“The pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards is taking a significant toll, particularly on young women. STADA is dedicated to caring for people’s health as a trusted partner, and this goes beyond our company. There is clearly work to be done in all quarters in the UK to promote realistic and diverse representations of beauty and provide better mental health resources to help our country’s young people navigate these challenges.”