Tackling social inequalities to reduce mental health problems: How everyone can flourish equally, in-depth report

We all have mental health and we can all experience mental health problems, whatever our background or walk of life. But the risks of mental ill-health are not equally distributed.

The likelihood of our developing a mental health problem is influenced by our biology, and by the circumstances in which we are born, grow, live and age.

Those who face the greatest disadvantages in life also face the greatest risks to their mental health.

This unequal distribution of risk to our mental health is what we call mental health inequalities.

This report provides an in-depth analysis of the ways that inequalities contribute to poor mental health in the UK today; it covers economic, other relational, physical, health & ageing, and ecological inequalities. It complements the briefing paper Tackling social inequalities to reduce mental health problems by providing more in-depth evidence on how social, economic, cultural and ecological inequalities influence the prevalence of mental health problems across society.

Drawing on international and national policy and guidance, it makes a clearly evidenced case for why addressing inequalities can help to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems and why action is needed across the public sector to improve the population’s mental health. The report concludes by drawing on good practice and emerging evidence to propose specific actions to address mental health inequalities.

As this paper shows, social, economic, cultural and ecological inequalities are key drivers of mental health problems. However, mental health problems can be prevented, and action to reduce these inequalities can help to ensure that everyone has the circumstances they need to achieve their best possible mental health.