UK Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021: Mental Health Report

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The link between money and mental health is well established; money worries can make existing mental health problems worse or cause new ones. As part of the Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) looked at the groups most affected by mental health problems and how their financial wellbeing is impacted.

Mental health problems can impact a person’s ability to process information and solve problems, deplete energy and increase impulsive behaviour, causing problems with money management and increasing the risk of accumulating debt.

We produced this report to support our work on the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing. Mental health is a cross-cutting theme of the strategy, and it is essential that people living with mental health problems are able to access financial wellbeing support that works for them.

How the research was carried out

This report forms part of MaPS’ Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey, a nationally representative survey of 10,306 adults living in the UK, which consisted of online and postal interviews during July to September 2021. The Mental Health Report is based on the 3,326 of these respondents who reported experiencing mental health problems in the last three years.

Data is weighted to be representative of the UK 18+ population by region/devolved nation, age, gender, Indices of Multiple Deprivation, housing tenure, urbanity, ethnicity, working status and internet usage.

The research was conducted for the Money & Pensions Service by Critical Research.

How we defined recent mental health problems

In the research we asked about mental health in two different ways:

  • Something that people had experienced problems with in the last three years – 30% of people said they this applied to them.
  • A limiting long term condition or disability related to mental health – 17% of people said this applied to them.

This report covers the 30% of the UK public who said they have experienced mental health problems in the last three years.

Forthcoming reports will cover disability/long term conditions in more detail.

Key findings

Three in ten people (30%) report problems with their mental health in the last three years. This has increased from 21% in 2018 (i.e. before the pandemic).

Recent mental health problems are linked to worse financial wellbeing, especially:

  • borrowing for the everyday
  • struggling with bills and payments
  • feeling less confident managing money.

Mental health problems are predominantly an issue among the working age population – retired people were much less likely to say they had experienced recent problems.

Aside from this, mental health issues cut across different genders and social classes. They are common among the employed, as well as among the self-employed or unemployed.

However, they are especially common among:

  • 18-34 year olds
  • parents (and in particular single parents)
  • people in rented accommodation
  • people on incomes below £13,500
  • ethnic minorities (in particular people from a Mixed or Black/Black British background)
  • people with disabilities or long term health conditions.

Next steps

In the delivery plans we are committed to a range of activities to support the financial wellbeing of people living with mental health problems.

We are producing Best Practice Guidance for Creditors so they can appropriately support their customers who may be living with mental health problems.

There will further be in-depth research into the experiences of people from ethnic minority communities in relation to both mental health and debt.

Following a successful pilot, our Money Guiders programme is also to be made available to all Employment Advisers who work in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services across England, ensuring that people experiencing mental health problems have access to both employment support and money guidanceOpens in a new window

The Mental Health & Money Toolkit that MaPS supported Mental Health UK to produce has now been extended to Wales (including a Welsh language version) and, with the support of Scottish Government, shared with every GP surgery across Scotland. A version for Northern Ireland is being developed.

We also continue to fund and evaluate a dedicated service which processes referrals into the Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space Scheme and provides debt advice and support to customers experiencing a mental health crisis.