Brexit and Mental Health: Almost two million Scots have felt 'powerless', 'worried' and 'angry' due to Brexit

21st Mar 2019
Influencing policies

Almost two million people in Scotland have felt powerless, angry or worried over the last year because of Brexit, according to calculations from the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.[1] 

In a new poll, more than four in ten Scottish adults told pollsters that in the last year, Brexit had made them feel powerless (45%), angry (44%) or worried (43%).

If extended to the whole Scottish population, this is estimated to be almost two million people feeling powerless, angry or worried.

Just over one in five people (21%) also said that in the last year, they had felt anxious because of Brexit, while a similar proportion (19%) said it had caused them ‘high levels of stress’.

Over one in 10 people (11%) reported that Brexit had caused them problems with sleep.

Brexit-related conflict also emerges from the survey as a fairly common experience, with more than one-in-ten (13%) of all Scottish respondents saying they had ever had a disagreement about Brexit with a family member or partner.

The poll was commissioned by the charity to look at the impact of the political environment on how people in Scotland are feeling, their sleep and their relationships. Problems with sleep, conflict with family and friends and feelings of powerlessness are all associated with higher levels of distress and poor well-being. 

The poll of 1025 adults living in Scotland also showed that almost one quarter (23%) of respondents said Brexit had not caused them to feel any particular emotions in the last 12 months.

Some said Brexit had made them feel “hopeful” (7%), happy (3%) and confident (2%) over the last year. 

However, while our poll is a snapshot of public opinion, it does not reveal how serious any connected distress might be.

Toni Giugliano of The Mental Health Foundation Scotland said:

“Our poll suggests that nearly two million adults in Scotland have experienced a range of negative emotions as a result of Brexit.

“This is true among both people who voted Leave and Remain. Almost three in five people (57%) who voted Remain said they have felt powerless, while a third (33%) who voted Leave felt the same thing.

“Feelings of powerlessness or worry are linked to a higher risk of mental health problems. They may also exacerbate existing difficulties.

“Our Brexit poll indicates the importance of our environments to our mental health. We also know, from other examples worldwide, that an unstable political environment can potentially affect people’s mental health.

“The number of people who said they felt high levels of stress or problems sleeping is also a concern.

“There is also good news, that most people seem to be coping, and almost a quarter said Brexit had not caused them to feel any particular emotion.

“But there are things we can do to help protect our mental health, and today we’re offering some advice about how people can look after their well-being in the face of Brexit. For instance, you could reflect on how news consumption is affecting you and consider muting news notifications on your smartphone and limiting yourself to reading a morning paper or watching the evening news.

"It's important to talk to others about how we're feeling and not suppress our emotions if we're feeling overwhelmed.

"If you're stressed about your long-term status at work because of changes in immigration or because your employment is vulnerable as a result of Brexit, talk to your HR colleagues to get assurances and contact your employer’s Employee Assistance Programme for psychological support."

[1] National Records of Scotland’s estimate of Scotland’s adult (18 and over) population in mid-2017 was 4.394 million people. 45% of this is 1.97 million people. 44% of this is 1.93 million people. 43% of this is 1.88 million people.

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