Becca Stacey, Senior Research Officer, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
How gender impacts our money and mental health
21 September 2022
The toxic cycle of money and mental health problems can impact any of us, with millions of people across the UK experiencing its effects right now. But it’s also true that certain factors like our gender, age and ethnicity affect how we experience this cycle, as well as the support we receive to break out of it. That’s why today we’ve published new research which explores how our gender can shape our experiences of money and mental health problems.
Our new research has found that among people with mental health problems, women are more likely than men to feel burdened by bills, and be receiving income-related benefits. But concerningly, they’re less likely to be asked by a health and social care professional about how their finances are impacting on their mental health, or receive support that addresses the link between the two. It’s clear that urgent action is needed to ensure everyone has an equal chance of breaking free of the toxic cycle of money and mental health problems.
Through the gender lens
Among men and women with mental health problems, women are more likely to say that keeping up with domestic bills and credit commitments is a burden (59% and 52% respectively). This compares to 44% of women and 42% of men without these conditions.
The fact that men with mental health problems are less likely to be burdened by these costs, is symptomatic of the slightly greater financial resilience they experience. While the barriers women with mental health problems face to good earnings from work – unpaid caring responsibilities, and the gender pay gap – are the same barriers that women more generally face, in combination with mental health problems, they take an additional toll. It is unsurprising, therefore, that 30% of women with mental health problems are in receipt of income-related benefits and tax credits, compared to 21% of men with mental health problems. In contrast, 13% of women and 8% of men without such conditions receive these benefits.
Limitations with external datasets mean we haven’t been able to fully explore the link between money and mental health for people who are transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse. Where possible, however, we have tried to shed some light on their experiences through feedback from our Research Community.
“Finding jobs that are happy to employ trans people is hard, and along with the mental health aspect, somedays I just can’t face going out. I survive on benefits or have, I don’t think I can any longer.” Non-binary expert by experience
How gender impacts the support we receive
Despite the fact that women with mental health problems are more likely to be struggling financially, men are nearly twice as likely to have had a health or social care professional raise the issue of whether they have any financial difficulties (34% compared to 18% of women with mental health problems). A greater share of men are also asked how their financial circumstances affect their mental health (42% compared to 31% of women). After discussing the impact their finances have on their mental health, a higher proportion of men receive a more proactive response – such as being supported by a health and social care professional to find relevant advice and help, or having financial matters included in care and treatment plans or assessments.
A vital opportunity in mental health settings to help break the link between money and mental health is therefore often being missed, especially among women where the risk posed by poor financial health is even greater.
“I think too often women are considered to be irresponsible and emotional, which so often isn’t the case but there are so many assumptions and generalisations that are ingrained in both financial and medical settings, leading the professionals working in them to stereotype people and therefore provide inadequate care. Obviously this is not always the case but there needs to be a much better understanding of individuals and current situations and what leads people to struggle with both finances and mental health as the two are so intertwined and often sit hand in hand.” Female expert by experience
How gender impacts the support we receive
Action is needed to address the reduced financial resilience that people with mental health problems – and in particular women – face, and to ensure that people with mental health problems of all genders receive support that addresses the link between their mental and financial health.
More employers must start offering roles flexibly so people with mental health problems are supported to balance work, health and care – a combination many women with mental health problems in particular have to juggle. Alongside this, the government should increase the value of benefits so those who depend on them – many of whom are women with mental health problems – aren’t financially disadvantaged. The NHS has a crucial role to play too. A routine inquiry about financial difficulties should be introduced to mental health services so everyone, regardless of their gender, receives support that addresses the link between their financial and mental health.
It’s also vital that the government starts routinely investigating and reporting on the mental and financial health of people who are transgender, non-binary and gender diverse, so their experiences of money and mental health can be better understood.
As a next step, we’re going to be looking into how other factors such as age and ethnicity impact on this relationship, helping us to broaden our understanding of the different barriers to good mental and financial health that people face.
If you want to share your experiences of how your age or ethnicity has impacted your mental health and financial situation, we’d love to hear from you. Learn more about our Research Community here.
If your work focuses on different demographic groups and you think you might be able to help us to deepen our understanding, please get in touch via [email protected].