Britain could be "permanently divided" because of inequality between the generations, the country's social mobility tsar has said.
Alan Milburn, chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, told the Guardian that a "wind of change" needed to sweep through the country and highlighted how difficult it was for young people to buy a home.
His comments come as an Ipsos Mori survey found that about 54% of the country believed young people's lives would be worse than their own generation's, the highest proportion ever recorded, the polling company said.
Former cabinet minister Mr Milburn said the idea that each successive generation would do better than the previous was part of the glue that bound society together.
But research showed that had failed to be the case and instead, the nation was facing an "existential crisis" as it considered the nature of society, he said.
He said: "What both the polling and the data suggest is that we may have reached an inflection point which, if these trends continue, we may become a society that is permanently divided.
"Certainly on home ownership, we're heading for a world where rates of home ownership among young people are below 50% for the first time.
"If this trend line continues we'll be there by the end of the decade. It is a wake up and smell the coffee moment."
Generation Y, also known as Millennials, who were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, have faced rising tuition fees and exploding house prices.
Mr Milburn said that without the help of their baby boomer parents, many would not be able to afford a home and that there was a growing divide between those with and without parental help.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission monitors the progress of the Government's efforts to improve social mobility.
In its most recent State of the Nation report, the commission warned that British society still included "deep divides", with a wide gulf between the life chances of the rich and poor.