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

17th Nov 2022

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

  • A poll finds more than one in nine (13%) adults in Scotland feeling hopeless about their financial situation, four in ten (40%) feeling anxious and one-third (33%) feeling stressed in the past month.
  • The Mental Health Foundation is warning of a significant rise in mental health problems without adequate support.
  • The Foundation calls for UK Government action on supporting people at higher risk and preventing mental health problems ahead of the Autumn Statement.

Many people across Scotland are experiencing 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 Mental Health Foundation Scotland warns action needs to be taken to prevent a significant rise in mental health problems without adequate support, as large numbers of people report being anxious, hopeless or stressed due to their finances.

The survey of 1000 adults living in Scotland aged 18 and over, conducted by Opinium between 7 to 14 November 2022, found that 33% of adults experienced stress, 40% experienced anxiety and 13% said they felt hopeless due to financial worries over the previous month.

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

When thinking about the next few months, many adults in Scotland are concerned about not being able to maintain their standard of living (75%), heat their home (70%) or pay general monthly household bills (65%). Significantly, more than half (52%) of adults in Scotland were at least a little worried about being able to afford food over the next few months, rising to 69% of those aged 18 to 34.

The Foundation calls on the UK Government to make sure people at higher risk will be protected from the negative effects 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.

Following the recent announcement of Scottish Government spending cuts, the Foundation is also urging Westminster to enhance the funding available to devolved governments to protect vital public services.

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.

Dr Shari McDaid, Head of Evidence and Impact at Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said:

Cuts to public services and benefits will undoubtedly have a negative impact on people’s mental health and well-being. 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 takes its toll. Our mental health services are already stretched beyond capacity; we cannot sit on the sidelines and watch them collapse under insurmountable demand.

Poor mental health is preventable if people are supported to live well. We need the UK Government to commit to measures that will protect people’s financial security, including inflation-adjusted benefits, debt advice and relief, and free public transport for people on low incomes and young people. It’s also more important than ever to eliminate the waiting time for Universal Credit claimants.

Public and voluntary services play a vital role in supporting people’s mental well-being. UK and devolved governments should ensure that staff and volunteers in social security, debt advice and food bank services can deliver support with compassion and understanding of the trauma many claimants will have experienced. This can be achieved through dedicated trauma-informed training and ongoing development of staff.

Our mental health is impacted by our environments and living circumstances. We ask that the UK and devolved governments consider and analyse the mental health impact of all decisions addressing the cost-of-living crisis.”

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 1000 adults in Scotland aged 18 and over was carried out by Opinium between 7 to 14 November 2022. Figures are weighted to be representative of all adults in Scotland.

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • The Mental Health Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • 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.
  • 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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