Cross-cutting themes of the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing: gender, mental health and ethnicity

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Mental health, ethnicity, and gender, are ‘cross-cutting themes’ throughout the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing.

This means that for all activities and initiatives delivered as part of the Strategy, these factors must be taken into consideration to determine whether it has an impact on consumer need. In order to better understand how consumer needs can be best met, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) conducted research spanning these aspects.

Find out more about the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing.

Mental health

There is strong existing evidence that financial difficulties and mental health problems can be interrelated. However, less is understood about how money and mental health can impact on people from minoritised ethnic communities in the UK. To build an understanding of this, we conducted further research looking specifically at this issue.

How was this research carried out?

In order to analyse the links between ethnicity and mental health on financial wellbeing, MaPS commissioned the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton to complete 21 semi-structured interviews with a range of organisations who support those from minoritised ethnic communities with financial difficulties and/or mental health problems. These explored the way in which members of certain minoritised ethnic communities may experience financial issues and mental health challenges differently.

Key findings

It found that a ‘vicious cycle’ between money and mental health problems exists regardless of ethnic background. However certain key factors emerged across minoritised ethnic communities:

  • Many members of minoritised communities face a ‘double stigma’ where it is particularly difficult to discuss either money or mental wellbeing, so discussing the two together may be especially challenging.
  • There is concern about the long-term impacts on children of using them as translators when talking about financial difficulties and/or mental health problems.
  • People with limited English language skills may experience additional stress or anxiety about dealing with finances.
  • Issues such as no recourse to public funds can cause additional challenges for those from minoritised ethnic communities who are experiencing domestic or economic abuse.
  • A lack of trust in the system can result in fears over being penalised or sanctioned when seeking help for financial matters.


Financial engagement measures – awareness, confidence, feelings, experience and trust – show women are significantly less financially engaged than men. We wanted to understand the extent of the gender gap for our key indicators of financial wellbeing.

How was this research carried out?

The gender report is based on questions in MaPS’ Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey. This is a nationally representative survey of 10,306 adults living in the UK. It consists of online and postal interviews during July to September 2021.

The research was conducted for MaPS by Critical Research. 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.

Key findings

Women are faring less well than men on almost all key financial wellbeing measures. However, the biggest gaps relate to pensions and retirement planning. In particular, women are:

  • Less likely to say they understand enough about pensions to make decisions about saving for retirement – 59% of women say this, compared with 43% of men.
  • Less likely to have a plan for their finances in retirement – 60% of women say they don’t have a plan, compared with 44% of men.

This is perhaps in part due to fewer women being in full-time employment compared to men and often on lower personal incomes. Women may also be in multiple lower paid jobs which fall below the threshold for automatic enrolment.

The gap between women’s and men’s financial wellbeing tends to be smaller for medium and shorter term financial issues.

The key drivers for lower levels of financial wellbeing among women are interconnected with structural gender inequalities that exist in wider society. To have a sustained and long-lasting impact, the issues affecting women that begin in early years and span education, working life and retirement need to be addressed in a coherent and connected way, with the responsibility for driving change shared across all genders.


This report provides an overview of financial wellbeing in different ethnic groups in the UK, particularly in relation to the key pillars of the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing. Where appropriate, comparisons are made between the financial behaviours and outcomes for the main different ethnic groups in the UK compared to all adults.

How was this research carried out?

This report is based on data from 2021, before the most recent cost of living pressures.

The 2021 survey used the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised questions for ethnicity (1). Using harmonised questions means that survey results are more easily comparable with other data sources, including Census data. In addition, it means that the questions we used have been extensively tested. There are different wording of these questions for each of the four nations of the UK, reflecting the differing ways in which ethnic group and national identity overlap.

Key findings

The results of this research indicate:

  • Lower levels of financial wellbeing among the black and mixed ethnic populations of the UK.
  • Adults of Asian ethnic background have levels of financial wellbeing slightly below or similar to the UK average.
  • The white population tends to be in line with the UK average, mostly because it is by far the largest ethnic group in the population.

The report looks at individual ethnic groups. From this, it is noticeable that those from an ethnic minority background tend to be:

  • Less confident in managing their money.
  • Less satisfied with their financial circumstances, particularly those from a Black ethnic background.
  • More at risk from significant life events such as illness or loss of employment due to lower levels of personal savings.
  • Having more difficulty in keeping up with bills and credit commitments, particularly those from a black or mixed ethnic background.
  • More likely to struggle to pay an unexpected bill, particularly those from a black or mixed ethnic background.
  • More likely to borrow to buy food or pay bills because money has run out, particularly those from a black or mixed ethnic background.

However, the research also shows that there are some elements of financial wellbeing where there is little apparent difference by ethnic group – such as retirement planning and regular saving.

In interpreting the results, it is also important to remember that there can be considerable variation within any given ethnic group.

Why is this research so important?

To have a sustained and long-lasting impact, the issues affecting financial wellbeing need to be addressed in a coherent and connected way.

MaPS continues to assess all activities through the lens of these key cross-cutting issues, and deliver according to need. As part of this, we must continue working to identify and address ongoing need in relation to financial wellbeing.

Through research such as this propositions can be co-designed through user testing with a diverse range of consumers according to a number of criteria including mental health, gender and ethnicity.