Nic Murray, Research Officer, Money and Mental Health

How does your mental health affect your spending?

Over 5,000 people told us they spend more when they are unwell


This was one of the most striking figures to emerge from our launch survey
, where 93% of people told us that their spending increases when their mental health is suffering. Within that 93% there is likely to be a lot of  variety;  Dan Holloway, our guest blogger, felt items called out to be bought by him, leading him to collect bibles, stationery and backpacks during manic episodes. Others told us it wasn’t any particular item that drew them in, but rather it was where they ended up spending when unwell that was a problem, whether that was staying up late shopping online or shopping via mail order catalogues.

Despite this great variety, there were some common themes in all of these stories.

Firstly that this spending had taken place in a period of poor mental health; secondly, that it was driven by emotional or psychological (rather than practical) needs; and thirdly that it caused financial harm. Many people also told us that they themselves could predict when their spending behaviours would become problematic and what that looks like. This meant that many people expressed a desire for change: a wish to have the tools to nip this spending in the bud themselves before it became too much of a problem.


Our approach to helping manage spending
So what would those tools look like, and how could they help? These are the main questions we ask in our new consultation paper. We want to ensure people have the tools to put safeguards in place while they are well, to protect themselves from financial harm when their mental health is suffering. But building these tools to be as effective as they can be will involve discussion and ideas from all involved. This means we are asking banks, retailers, lenders and healthcare providers to respond to our consultation paper on the feasibility of this approach and how it would work in practice – and we want your ideas too.


How could these tools help?
Many people told us that they were generally in control of their spending, but were sometimes thrown off-course by the impact of being unwell. Could mental health support that attempted to address these psychological and emotional factors that drive spending help with better control of our money? For those people who could clearly identify the triggers of increased spending, perhaps some financial controls might be of use, for example limiting access to certain shopping channels, or new credit. But how strict would these be in practice, and could they be designed so as not to cause unnecessary harm

Each approach clearly brings with it many questions, and we don’t yet have all the answers about what would work. We do believe, however, that we’re asking the right questions to the right people, to find what would work best.


We want your input
As well as hearing from banks, lenders, retailers and healthcare providers, we want to hear from people who have experience of spending more as a result of their mental health, or caring for those who do. You’re welcome to send your thoughts in response to the full consultation now, but we’ll also be emailing our research panel over the coming months with specific questions that we’d like help with.


Get involved in our research
It was our research panel who made it clear to us how big an issue spending is for many people. Whether your mental health affects your spending or not, you can join our panel to share your story and ideas, help shape our work, and help others who may be struggling with money and mental health problems. We will make sure that your voice is heard by government, banks, retailers, regulators, the NHS and beyond.