Mental Health Awareness Week: Financial strain is driving the UK’s anxiety
16 May 2023
Money worries are the most common cause of anxiety and shame is stopping us opening up, with more than one third of UK adults with anxiety saying they feel ashamed to talk about it to anyone.
Anxiety is the Mental Health Foundation’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May), and together with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, the charity is calling for the government to take action to protect people’s mental health.
Data released by the Mental Health Foundation shows anxiety is widespread across the UK as living costs continue to rise. Almost three-quarters of the population (73 percent) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the last two weeks.
One in three people (32 percent) said worries about ‘being able to afford to pay my bills’ made them anxious in the last two weeks. 20 percent said ‘debt’ and 15 percent cited job insecurity or unemployment.
People aged 50-64 years old were the most likely to be worried about paying the bills with more than half citing this as a reason for anxiety (51 percent). Other groups more likely to be anxious about paying the bills were people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities (41 percent), people experiencing mental health problems (37%), and single parents (36 percent)
More than one third of UK adults (37 percent) with anxiety said that they are ashamed to talk to anyone about it. Young people are the most likely to avoid opening up about anxiety. More than half of those aged 18-24 (56 percent) said that they wouldn’t tell their employer about anxiety.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:
“There are clear links between financial strain and poor mental health and for people experiencing both they are faced with a double taboo. We don’t like to talk about money matters and the perceived stigma about mental health is stopping many of us from talking about our problems.
The cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated both financial strain and poor mental health, creating a public mental health emergency.
We were hugely disappointed that just as financial pressures on people across the UK increased, causing anxiety about being able to pay the bills, the Government abandoned its planned 10-year mental health and wellbeing strategy for England, replacing it with a shorter-term Major Conditions Strategy that will cover mental health alongside several physical health conditions.
We need the Government to take concrete steps to address the mental health impacts of the cost-of-living crisis with financial support schemes that alleviate financial stress. In addition, front line workers such as debt advice services, energy companies and banks should be supported to respond effectively to the mental health effects of financial strain.”
Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows how few people with mental health problems disclose a mental health problem to an essential services provider. Only 14 percent have disclosed to their financial services firm, 12 percent to their energy firm, 13 percent to their telecoms provider and 11 percent to their water provider.
Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“It’s no surprise to see that the cost of living crisis has become a serious source of anxiety for many people across the UK, who are starting each day worried about how they’ll make their finances stretch. Talking about your mental health can be daunting at the best of times, but money problems can seriously compound those difficulties and can add another layer of shame that makes it harder to deal with.
We need the government and regulators to step up support measures to reduce the financial pressures and distress that people are facing. That includes stopping debt collectors hounding people about missed payments and making sure that people can get the support they need through the benefits system.
Businesses like banks, energy providers and other utilities firms can play a critical role in easing the anxiety people are facing during the cost of living crisis too. Taking steps to make sure their staff are trained to help customers who disclose they are struggling with their mental health, and to signpost them to support, could make a big difference.”
Polling data showed
73 percent of UK adults felt anxious in the previous two weeks.
32 percent said being able to afford to pay the bills had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.
20 percent said debt had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks
15 percent said that job insecurity or unemployment made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.
45 percent of UK adults said they keep their anxiety a secret.
56 percent of UK adults aged 18-24 said they wouldn’t tell their employer about anxiety.
14 percent of people with mental health problems in the UK have disclosed their condition to their financial services firm
12 percent of people with mental health problems in the UK have disclosed their condition to their energy firm
13 percent of people with mental health problems in the UK have disclosed their condition to their telecoms provider
11 percent of people with mental health problems in the UK have disclosed their condition to their water provider
For further information and interview requests please contact the Mental Health Foundation media team on email [email protected]
Notes to Editors
Mental Health Foundation polling of 6,000 UK adults was carried out by Opinium between 24 March and 3 April 2023. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative.
Money and Mental Health Policy Institute analysis of polling conducted by Opinium, of 5,001 people with mental health problems and 1,000 people without mental health problems (weighted to be nationally representative). Respondents were surveyed between 25 June and 22 July 2021. The research and practical guides to help essential services firms to support people with mental health problems to disclose their condition can be found here.
About the Mental Health Foundation
- The Mental Health Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.
- Our vision is of good mental health for all.
- The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.
- We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.
- Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves.
- The Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidenced based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.
About the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent charity set up by Martin Lewis, and committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. We conduct research, develop practical policy solutions and work in partnership with both those providing services and those using them to find what really works. www.moneyandmentalhealth.org