New Survey highlights need for prevention revolution

29 September 2016

An authoritative new survey of mental health and wellbeing in England by NHS Digital has found that, when asked, in the past week, 1 in 6 adults experienced a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression.  An increase of 0.8% since the last survey in 2007 despite an increasing number of people accessing services.

It is self-evident that the root causes of mental health problems are not being addressed; this most recent study finds that one in ten adults in England are receiving medication for a mental health problem, with increases in both the levels of reported anxiety and depression. Of huge concern, one in five adults reported that they had thought of taking their life at some point in their lives.

Strikingly, a gap in prevalence of mental health problems between young men and women is developing – women aged between 16 and 24 are three times as likely (26%) to have a symptom of a common mental health problem than young men (9.1%). Another group at particular risk are people in mid-life with a noticeable increase in the prevalence of common mental health problems for both men and women between the ages of 55 and 64. People in receipt of Employment Support Allowance reported extremely high levels of prevalence of common mental health problems (66.4%) with roughly the same numbers having had suicidal thoughts. Despite an increase in people accessing treatment for mental health problems, around a third of all people who identify as living with a mental health problem have sought no professional help at all.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, the Mental Health Foundation’s Assistant Director of Development Programmes, said:

“The National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey has reinforced the fact we are facing a crisis in the mental health of the nation that will not be solved solely by increasing access to mental health services. There are some hugely troubling statistics that emerge from the report: why are young women, people in mid-life and those on benefits at such risk of developing mental health problems? What does the fact that one in ten adults in England is on medication for mental health problems say about us as a nation? We need an urgent and coordinated focus on tackling the neglected social and economic causes of mental health problems alongside continued improved access to services.  People are under pressure and we all have a role to help protect and sustain good mental health.”