Over two million people in the UK forced to limit their work due to poor mental health, with many pushed into debt as a result

01 November 2018

New research released today by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has found that 2.3 million people in the UK are currently experiencing mental health problems that affect the amount of paid work they can do, with many in severe financial hardship as a result.

The research, supported by Aviva, found that many people with mental health problems are being left at risk of homelessness, falling behind on bills or going without food due to financial difficulty caused by taking time off sick from work. This financial difficulty in turn makes mental health problems worse and recovery take longer, starting a destructive cycle, with thousands finding themselves too ill to work, and too broke not too.

The new analysis of nationally representative data also found that people experiencing poor mental health are more than twice as likely to report they left their last job for health reasons, compared to people with other health issues.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is today calling for changes including:

  • Increasing the flexibility of sick pay to allow preventative, part-time sick leave as well as phased returns to work
  • Increasing the level of Employment Support Allowance (or the ‘limited capacity for work’ element of Universal Credit) paid during the 13 week ‘assessment’ period to the same amount as Statutory Sick Pay, to avoid the income shock of around £20 per week currently faced by people in the middle of a period of sickness absence who move onto benefits as they exhaust their sick pay
  • Increasing access to income protection products, particularly for people who have pre-existing conditions.

Commenting, Helen Undy, the Director of The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: For thousands of people in the UK sick days are a luxury they just can’t afford. Many with mental health problems are finding themselves too ill to work, and too broke not to – choosing between causing harm to their mental health by working, or harm to their finances by taking time to recover.

“It’s a vicious cycle, ultimately forcing many out of the workplace entirely. We want to see the government and employers taking urgent steps to improve sick pay, access to benefits and other income protection so that a mental health diagnosis is not the first step out of the workforce.”

Steve Bridger, managing director of group protection at Aviva, said: “It is well established that mental ill-health affects most people to varying degrees in their life. What we see as an insurer – and as an employer – is that people’s ability to cope through a difficult patch and then be able to get back to work, is directly correlated to how easy it is for people to get support and how quickly they get it.

“We also know that having the right sort of financial support to help them deal with the practical, everyday problems – like how to keep paying the bills – can make a huge difference to their recovery.

“We are proud to sponsor this report ‘Too ill to work, too broke not to’, which is both topical and timely – and shines a light on how we might improve this destructive cycle.

Read the full research here.


For all media enquiries including interviews with spokespeople:

Brian Semple, 0207 848 1448, [email protected]

Sally Richards, Aviva, [email protected] 01603 684225

Notes to Editors

About Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

  • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
  • It conducts research and develops policies for essential services firms, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
  • Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded in 2003 for £100 and remains its full-time Editor-in- Chief. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.
  • Helen Undy is a passionate mental health campaigner and became the Institute’s Director in 2018, having previously led the Institute’s impact and communications work.

About Aviva:

  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers.
  • In the UK we are the leading insurer serving one in every four households and have strong businesses in selected markets in Europe, Asia and Canada. Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE100 index.  
  • Aviva’s asset management business, Aviva Investors, provides asset management services to both Aviva and external clients, and currently manages over £350 billion in assets. Total group assets under management at Aviva group are £490 billion.
  • Aviva helps people save for the future and manage the risks of everyday life; in 2017, we paid out 98% of all our claims across all our markets and insurance products. We paid £34.6 billion in benefits and claims in 2017.
  • By serving our customers well, we are building a business which is strong and sustainable, which our people are proud to work for, and which makes a positive contribution to society.
  • The Aviva newsroom at includes links to our image library, research reports and our news release archive.
  • For an introduction to what we do and how we do it, please click here
  • Follow us on twitter:
  • Follow us on LinkedIn:
  • For the latest corporate films from around our business, subscribe to our YouTube channel: