Financial strain is driving the UK’s anxiety

15th May 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week

Money worries are the most common cause of anxiety, and stigma is stopping us from opening up, with more than one-third of UK adults with anxiety saying they feel ashamed to talk about it.


of UK adults said being able to afford to pay the bills had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.


of UK adults said debt had made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.


of UK adults said that job insecurity or unemployment made them feel anxious in the last two weeks.

Anxiety is the Mental Health Foundation’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 21 May 2023), and with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, we are calling for the government to take action to protect people’s mental health.

Data we released earlier this week shows anxiety is widespread across the UK as living costs continue to rise. Almost three-quarters of the population (73%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the last two weeks.

One in three people (32%) said worries about ‘being able to afford to pay my bills’ made them anxious in the last two weeks. 20% said ‘debt’ and 15% cited job insecurity or unemployment.

More than one-third of UK adults (37%) with anxiety said that they are ashamed to talk to anyone about it. Young people are the most likely to avoid opening up about anxiety. More than half of those aged 18 to 24 (56%) said that they wouldn’t tell their employer about anxiety.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

“There are clear links between financial strain and poor mental health and for people experiencing both they are faced with a double taboo. We don’t like to talk about money matters and the perceived stigma about mental health is stopping many of us from talking about our problems.

“The cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated both financial strain and poor mental health, creating a public mental health emergency.

“We were hugely disappointed that just as financial pressures on people across the UK increased, causing anxiety about being able to pay the bills, the Government abandoned its planned 10-year mental health and wellbeing strategy for England, replacing it with a shorter-term Major Conditions Strategy that will cover mental health alongside several physical health conditions.

“We need the Government to take concrete steps to address the mental health impacts of the cost-of-living crisis with financial support schemes that alleviate financial stress. In addition, front-line workers such as debt advice services, energy companies and banks should be supported to respond effectively to the mental health effects of financial strain.”

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows how few people with mental health problems disclose a mental health problem to an essential services provider. Only 14% have disclosed to their financial services firm, 12% to their energy firm, 13% to their telecoms provider and 11% to their water provider.

Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:

“It's no surprise to see that the cost of living crisis has become a serious source of anxiety for many people across the UK, who are starting each day worried about how they’ll make their finances stretch. Talking about your mental health can be daunting at the best of times, but money problems can seriously compound those difficulties and can add another layer of shame that makes it harder to deal with.

“We need the government and regulators to step up support measures to reduce the financial pressures and distress that people are facing. That includes stopping debt collectors from hounding people about missed payments and making sure that people can get the support they need through the benefits system.

“Businesses like banks, energy providers and other utility firms can play a critical role in easing the anxiety people are facing during the cost-of-living crisis too. Taking steps to make sure their staff are trained to help customers who disclose they are struggling with their mental health and to signpost them to support, could make a big difference.”

We are the home of Mental Health Awareness Week

Learn more about the week and read our report about anxiety in the UK.
Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week - 15 to 21 May 2023


Notes to editors

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] .

About polling

Mental Health Foundation polling of 6000 UK adults was carried out by Opinium between 24 March and 3 April 2023. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute analysis of polling conducted by Opinium of 5001 people with mental health problems and 1000 people without mental health problems (weighted to be nationally representative). Respondents were surveyed between 25 June and 22 July 2021. The research and practical guides to help essential services firms to support people with mental health problems to disclose their condition can be found here.

About Mental Health Awareness Week

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • Our vision is for good mental health for all.
  • The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.
  • We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.
  • Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves.
  • The Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidenced-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.
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