Stress, anxiety and hopelessness over personal finances widespread across UK - new mental health survey

17th Nov 2022

This content mentions anxiety and trauma, which some people may find triggering.

  • A poll finds one in ten (10%) of UK adults feeling hopeless about financial circumstances, more than one-third (34%) feeling anxious, and almost three in ten (29%) feeling stressed in the past month.
  • The Mental Health Foundation asks for government action on supporting people at higher risk and preventing mental health problems ahead of the Autumn Statement.
  • Foundation warns of a significant rise in mental health problems without adequate support.

The UK population is experiencing widespread levels of stress, anxiety and hopelessness in response to financial concerns, according to a new survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s autumn statement, the Foundation warns that action needs to be taken to prevent a significant rise in mental health problems across the UK, as large numbers of people report feeling anxious, hopeless or stressed due to their financial circumstances.

The survey of 3000 adults aged 18 and over, conducted by Opinium between 7 to 14 November 2022, found that 29% of adults experienced stress, 34% experienced anxiety and 10% said they felt hopeless because of financial worries during the previous month.

Graphic of a stickperson with a pile of coins and a money purse

When thinking about the next few months, UK adults are most concerned about not being able to maintain their standard of living (71%), heat their home (66%) or pay general monthly household bills (61%). Significantly, half (50%) of UK adults were at least a little worried about being able to afford food over the next few months, rising to 67% of younger adults aged 18 to 34.

The Foundation is calling on the UK Government to ensure people across the UK will be protected from the negative impact of both the cost-of-living crisis and potential cuts to public services.

This includes protecting financial benefits, so they rise with inflation and increasing the capacity of debt services, food banks, community organisations and social security departments. It also includes training staff on addressing the trauma many claimants have experienced.

Evidence has repeatedly shown that financial strain and poverty are key contributors to mental health problems. The Foundation warns that the number of people experiencing poor mental health will likely increase rapidly as more people struggle to make ends meet.

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

Our findings are a warning sign of the mental health consequences of the cost-of-living crisis. We must protect public services and benefits at this crucial time. If people are struggling to meet their essential needs for a warm home and enough healthy food for their families, we can expect a significant rise in mental health problems as the burden of financial strain continues to take its toll.

The challenge the country faces cannot be easily addressed. However, there are steps we can take to protect people’s mental health at this time. We must support those at higher risk by, for example, raising benefits in line with inflation and employers committing to pay their staff the real living wage. Training frontline staff in social security and debt services on how to recognise and respond sensitively to the trauma experienced by many people they are working with can also help.

Preventing mental health problems is vital. Our mental health services are already stretched beyond capacity; we cannot sit on the sidelines and watch them collapse under ever-greater demand.

The UK Government should consider the mental health impact of all decisions that affect the cost-of-living crisis. Other measures we ask for include maintaining and extending free or subsidised public transport to allow people to connect with friends and family and increasing the provision of debt advice and other vital community services."

Earlier this year, the Foundation published research with the London School of Economics and Political Science, which put the cost of mental health problems to the UK economy at £117 billion annually.

While the Mental Health Foundation is calling on political leaders to take action, it has also published guidance for people experiencing financial strain. This includes signposting to support services.


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Notes to editors

The poll of 3000 UK adults aged 18 and over was carried out by Opinium between 7 to 14 November 2022. Figures are weighted to be representative of all UK adults.

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • The Mental Health Foundation has been the home of Mental Health Awareness Week since 2001.
  • 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 of poor mental health.
  • The 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 evidence-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health.

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