On the Sidelines. Depression-related Work Disability among Young Adults in Finland

In Finland, rates of depression-related inability to work have soared among adults under 30 years of age. Moreover, there is often a link between depression and dropping out of the education system or workforce. Yet it remains unclear whether depression is a cause or instead a consequence when young adults are left on the margins, outside work and education.

On the Sidelines? was a research project exploring depression-related sick leaves and work disability among young adults. Through in-depth interviews, the study examined, first of all, what kinds of paths have led to sick leave or outside work and education.

The second key element of the project was an emphasis on the everyday life: How do the young adults themselves perceive their current life situation? What kinds of problems do they face in day-to-day life? What kinds of things support the young adult’s agency, and what hinders it?

The researcher behind the project, Sanna Rikala, analysed the features of the contemporary labour market, work life, and social services from the perspective of interviewees’ experiences. The purpose to comprehend, why so many young adults are currently ‘sidelined’. Rikala also considered what kind of social policy could improve young adults’ opportunities to act as a part of society – in a way regarded as meaningful. The project brought new insights into today’s discussion of mental health, work disability, and social exclusion and inclusion.

The project is funded by the Academy of Finland (2016 – 2019). See the outcomes here (linkki Sannan Julkaisuihin)