Millions have felt ‘powerless’, ’angry’ or ’worried’ because of Brexit – results of our new poll

21st Mar 2019

Millions of people in the UK have felt powerless, angry or worried over the last year because of Brexit, according to calculations from our new poll.1

In a new poll, around four in ten UK adults said that in the last year, Brexit had made them feel powerless (43 per cent), angry (39 per cent) or worried (38 per cent).

If extended to the whole population, then it is estimated that just over 22 million people have felt powerless over Brexit.

The poll was commissioned to look at the impact of the political environment on how people are feeling, their sleep and their relationships. Experiences of conflict in relationships, problems with sleeping and feelings of powerlessness are all associated with higher levels of distress and poor wellbeing.

The poll of 1,800 UK adults also showed that just over one quarter (26 per cent) 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 (nine per cent), happy (three per cent) or confident (two per cent) over the last year.

Over one in 10 people (12 percent) reported that Brexit had caused them problems with sleeping in the last year and almost two in 10 (17 per cent) said it had caused them ‘high levels of stress’.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “It is clear from our poll that the political environment, as a result of Brexit, is having an effect on millions of people’s wellbeing.

“Many of the emotions that people told us about, like anger and powerlessness, are linked to a higher risk of mental health problems.

“This is true among both people who voted Leave and Remain. Just under six in 10 (59 per cent) people who voted Remain said they have felt powerless, while just over a third (34 per cent) who voted Leave felt the same thing.

“But while some of the results would raise concern, there is also good news here. Despite the uncertainly, most people appear to be coping and a quarter said Brexit had not caused them to feel any particular emotion.”

Brexit-related conflict also emerges from the survey as a common experience, with nearly one-in-five (19 per cent) of all respondents saying they had ever had a disagreement about Brexit with a family member or partner.

A similar proportion (21 per cent), said that in the last year, they had felt anxious because of Brexit.

Londoners were more likely than people in any other region to say Brexit had made them feel anxious over the last year. Thirty percent of London adults said this compared to the national average of 21 percent.

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

“But there are things we can do to help protect our mental health. Today we’re offering some advice about how people can look after their mental health 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.

“Doing something to support a local or community group may also help, if you worry that people in your area or community are being affected by political change. We know that helping others is good for your mental health.”

Top tips for looking after your mental health during times of political uncertainty

  1. This calculation is based on a UK adult population estimate of 52,078,525. 43% of adults surveyed reported feeling powerless; 43% of 52,078,525 is 22,393,785. 39% of adults surveyed reported feeling angry; 39% of 52,078,525 is 20,310,624. 38% of adults surveyed reported feeling worried; 38% of 52,078,525 is 19,789,839.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1823 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th March - 13th March 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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