This is a report cover image titled 'Safety Net'

Merlyn Holkar, Senior Research Officer, Chris Lees, Research Officer and Conor D’Arcy, Head of Research and Policy

Safety net

Breaking the link between online financial harms and mental health problems

This report explores the difficulties that those of us with mental health problems might experience while navigating online spaces, and the potential financial harm this can cause. The report highlights:

  • The greater risk of financial harm that people face online when living with a mental health problem
  • Common symptoms of mental health problems can make it harder for people to control spending online, or to spot online scams
  • People with mental health problems are three times more likely to have been victim of an online scam, compared to the wider population (23% compared to 8%)
  • Half (54%) of people who have recently experienced a mental health problem felt that online shopping sites make it too easy to spend more money than you can afford
  • Over half (57%) of people with mental health problems who have applied for credit online feel that it is too easy to borrow online.

Key Recommendations

  • The government and regulators should act urgently to address gaps in consumer protections online, which are leaving people with mental health problems exposed to financial harm and distress
  • Tech companies should reduce the risk of financial harm by reconsidering the design of online platforms, and give people more ways to stay in control online — such as the ability to set spending limits or to opt out of marketing nudges
  • The government should scams in its upcoming Online Safety Bill, and giving regulators more powers to tackle financial harm online.