The Mental Health of Young Canadians Who Are Not Working or in School [2018]

Recent studies suggest that youth who have a mental health problem are more likely to be NEET—not in education, employment, or training—but findings remain mixed, and evidence from Canada is limited. We examined this association across a range of mental and substance disorders in a representative sample of Canadian youth.

Data were from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey–Mental Health (n = 5622; ages 15-29). The survey identified past-year mental (depression, bipolar, generalized anxiety) and substance (alcohol, cannabis, other drugs) disorders from a structured interview and included questions on suicidal ideation. We classified as NEET respondents who were not in school or employed in the past week. Logistic regression models tested the associations between mental and substance disorders and NEET status, adjusted for sociodemographic, health, and geographic variables.

About 10% of youth were NEET. Being NEET was associated with past-year depression (odds ratio [OR] = 1.67; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06 to 2.63); bipolar (OR = 2.31; 95% CI, 0.98 to 5.45), generalized anxiety (OR = 2.65; 95% CI, 1.37 to 5.12), and drug use (OR = 3.22; 95% CI, 1.33 to 7.76) disorders; and suicidal ideation (OR = 1.75; 95% CI, 0.99 to 3.09) but was not associated with alcohol (OR = 1.03; 95% CI, 0.63 to 1.69) or cannabis (OR = 0.97; 95% CI, 0.47 to 2.00) disorders.

Poor mental health was associated with being NEET in Canadian youth. Efforts targeting NEET should include provisions for mental health. Moreover, youth mental health initiatives should consider educational and employment outcomes. Further longitudinal and intervention studies are warranted.

Geneviève Gariépy PhD, Srividya Iyer, PhD
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, December 30, 2018