Merlyn Holkar, Research Assistant, Money and Mental Health

Money on your mind

Today we release Money on your Mind, our first report about the relationship between money and mental health

The study behind the report is the largest of its kind, nearly 5,500 people took part, and it provides conclusive evidence that the link between mental health problems and financial difficulties goes both ways. It has long been accepted that financial problems can worsen mental health, but our evidence shows that mental health problems can also have a detrimental effect on personal finances.

This is how financial issues and mental health problems become a vicious cycle; each feeds off the other, creating a trap that can be exceptionally hard to break out of. That’s where we come in. Martin Lewis established Money and Mental Health to develop solutions that can break the link, supporting people with mental health problems or financial difficulties to lead healthier and happier lives.


I’ll pick out just one statistic from the report

93% of those we surveyed told us that they spend more than usual during periods of poor mental health. This is crucial; in no time at all such spending can decimate savings or create a debt burden that takes years, if not a lifetime, to shake off.

However, this is not a straightforward statistic. Different mental health problems have all kinds of different symptoms that affect our financial behaviour. Even at the individual level, the same diagnosis can manifest, or be dealt with, in wholly dissimilar ways. So this 93% covers a broad range of behaviours. For some this means manic, extravagant spending sprees, whilst for others, increased spending can be a crutch, a source of comfort in the depths of depression. Our report seeks to map this diversity, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of exactly how and why mental health problems alter financial behaviour.


This is just the start

It provides solid evidence, for the first time, and identifies some of the key areas where work needs to be done. The next step is to start a dialogue. A lot of good work has been done supporting people with mental health problems who are in problem debt, but barely anything has been done to consider how we prevent it happening in the first place.

We want to bring together all of the relevant parties and hear what they have to say. What problems have they come across? What do they think should be done? That means politicians, financial services, retailers, medical professionals, regulators and most importantly, the one in four of us who experience a mental health problem each year.


So what else are we up to?

We plan to drill down further into our survey data. We’ll be looking more closely at the patterns of financial behaviour associated with different mental health diagnoses, and at people’s attitudes towards talking to their bank about mental health problems. We’re also currently working on a “crisis spending” consultation paper. This will address the issue of increased spending during periods of poor mental health, setting out some of our initial policy ideas and inviting others to share their expertise and experience.


Get involved

If you have personal experience of mental health problems, or care for someone who does, then you can take part by joining our research panel. If you work in mental health, financial services or policy, then please sign up to our professional network.

Finally I’d like to personally thank everybody who took part in our first survey. It’s not easy to share details about your own mental health or financial situation, but the information you gave us was invaluable and will fundamentally shape our work going forward.


Read the full report here