Two in three adults face mental health problems

8 May 2017

Most Britons say they have experienced a mental health problem at some point in their lives with younger generations particularly impacted. 

A major new study by the Mental Health Foundation on the nation’s mental health has uncovered that most Britons (65%) say that they have experienced a mental health problem - like a panic attack or depression. The study found that this is an issue that is becoming worse, with younger people more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced a mental health issue.

Those between the ages of 18 and 54 were significantly more likely to say they have experienced a mental health problem (70% of 18-34 year olds and 68% of 35-54 year olds) compared to those over the age of 55 (58%).  

The study, launched to mark the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, lays bare the scale of people’s experiences of mental health problems. It explores the number of people experiencing mental ill health across a lifetime, reveals people’s levels of positive mental health, and sets out the activities people are taking to deal with everyday life. It also showed that:

  • only a small minority of Britons (13%) are living with high levels of positive mental health. Over a quarter of people (26%) say they have had a panic attack and between a third and a half (42%) say they have experienced depression
  • women are more likely to say that they have experienced a mental health problem than men (70% of women compared to 60% of men)
  • nearly three quarters of people (73%) living in the lowest household income bracket (less than £1,200 per month) say they have experienced a mental health problem compared to 59% in the highest household income bracket (over £3,701 per month). A substantial majority of those out of work (85%) say that they have experienced a mental health problem compared to 66% in work and 53% of people who have retired. 
  • Those aged 55 and over are more likely to take steps that are known to be good for their mental health and wellbeing – including getting enough sleep, eating healthily and spending time with friends and family.  

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

"Our report lays out the sheer scale of the problem. This isn’t an issue that just affects a minority. At some point in our life most of us are likely to experience a mental health problem. At the same time, too few of us are thriving with good mental health. We know that only a minority of people experiencing mental ill health access professional support, which means that we need to redouble our efforts to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place."

"This Mental Health Awareness Week we want to give people some of the tools to move from surviving to thriving. The barometer of any nation is the health and happiness of its people. We have made great strides in the health of our bodies, we now need to achieve the same for the health of our minds."

The Mental Health Foundation has set out a five-point plan to create a thriving UK – a plan they say requires us to prioritise our mental health as much as we do our physical health.

The Foundation is calling for the introduction of a "100% health" screen – incorporating mental health screening into existing health screening programmes, a community based resilience programme, and increased funding for mental health research with a focus on prevention. They are also calling for a Royal Commission to investigate the solutions to prevent mental ill health, with a focus on reducing risk, along with a report on the nation’s mental health every year.