The introduction of Universal Credit has led to a marked increase in psychological distress among those affected by the policy, a study has concluded.
The University of Liverpool research study, published in The Lancet Public Health, found the introduction of Universal Credit led to an additional seven people experiencing psychological distress for every 100 people affected by the policy.
This equates to approximately 64,000 people experiencing psychological distress between 2013 and 2018 as a result of the introduction of Universal Credit.
The researchers said mental health in the UK has deteriorated in the past two decades and there is evidence that welfare reforms have contributed to this.
In 2013, the UK started replacing several existing benefit schemes with Universal Credit.
Doctors have raised concerns that this reform is harming health and increasing the workload of GPs.
There have also been reports of long delays in payments and increased use of sanctions whereby claimants lose part or all of their benefits for not meeting conditions, such as looking for work.
Professor Ben Barr, from the University of Liverpool, said the study has shown how Universal Credit has increased mental health problems.
“This and other evidence of the adverse impact of Universal Credit adds to the growing calls for it to be scrapped or radically reformed,” he argued.
Dr Sophie Wickham, also from the University of Liverpool, added: “We have shown that moving on to Universal Credit increases psychological distress in unemployed people. Other groups may well be affected, such as employed people and those caring for children. The consequences of poor mental health, for individuals, families, and our public services, may be vast.”