Poverty: statistics

A growing body of evidence, mainly from high-income countries, has shown that there is a strong socioeconomic gradient in mental health, with people of lower socioeconomic status having a higher likelihood of developing and experiencing mental health problems.1

  • Children and adults living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket in Great Britain are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest.2
  • In 2004, evidence from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey found that the prevalence of severe mental health problems was around three times higher among children in the bottom quintile of family income than among those in the top quintile.3
  • Analysis of data from the Millennium Cohort Study in 2012 found children in the lowest income quintile to be 4.5 times more likely to experience severe mental health problems than those in the highest,371 suggesting that the income gradient in young people’s mental health has worsened considerably over the past decade.4

    Employment status

    • Employment status is linked to mental health outcomes, with those who are unemployed or economically inactive having higher rates of common mental health problems than those who are employed.5
    • Employment is generally beneficial for mental health. However, the mental health benefits of employment depend on the quality of work; work that is low paid, insecure or poses health risks can be damaging to mental health.6
    Prevalence of common mental health problems by employment status shown in this graph.7
    Employment statistics

    Housing

    • Those on housing benefit are more than twice as likely to have a common mental health problem than those not in receipt of it (35.1% vs 14.9%).8
    • Discover the statistics on homelessness and mental health

    Browse all mental health statistics

      Our 2016 study 'The Fundamental Facts about Mental Health' follows a comprehensive summary of mental health research, providing a unique handbook of key facts and figures, covering all key areas of mental health.
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      References

      1. WHO, & Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. (2014). Social determinants of mental health. WHO Geneva. Retrieved from who.int/social_determinants/sdh_definition/en/ [Accessed 16/08/16].
      2. Marmot, M., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Boyce, T., McNeish, D., Grady, M., & Geddes, I. (2010). Fair society, healthy lives: Strategic review of health inequalities in England post 2010. Retrieved from instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/ fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review [Accessed 07/11/16].
      3. Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., Ford, T., & Goodman, R. (2005). Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain: 2004. ONS.
      4. Gutman, L., Joshi, H., Parsonage, M., & Schoon, I. (2015). Children of the new century: Mental health findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. London: Centre for Mental Health.
      5. Stansfeld, S., Clark, C., Bebbington, P., King, M., Jenkins, R., & Hinchliffe, S. (2016). Chapter 2: Common mental disorders. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T. Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
      6. Marmot, M., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Boyce, T., McNeish, D., Grady, M., & Geddes, I. (2010). Fair society, healthy lives: Strategic review of health inequalities in England post 2010. Retrieved from instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/ fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review [Accessed 07/11/16].
      7. Stansfeld, S., Clark, C., Bebbington, P., King, M., Jenkins, R., & Hinchliffe, S. (2016). Chapter 2: Common mental disorders. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T. Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
      8. Jones-Rounds, M.L., Evans, G.W., & Braubach, M. (2013). The interactive effects of housing and neighbourhood quality on psychological well-being. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 68, 171–175.