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People with mental health problems ‘more likely to be in debt’

Analysis shows ‘vicious cycle’ of money problems and depression

People with mental health problems are three-and-a-half times more likely to be in problem debt than those without mental health problems, an analysis suggests.

Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, based on data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, suggests 1.5 million people in England are currently struggling with both problem debt and mental health problems.

Nearly half (46%) of all people in problem debt are also experiencing a mental health problem.

The research shows certain mental health conditions can dramatically increase someone’s chances of facing financial difficulties.

For example, people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are almost six times more likely to be in problem debt than people without a mental health problem, in part due to common symptoms such as unreliable memory and difficulty in processing information which make it harder to manage money. 

Nearly a third of people (29%) with OCD in England have problem debt, compared to just 5% for people who do not have a mental health problem.

Similarly, people with bipolar disorder or depression are around five times more likely to be experiencing serious financial difficulty than people without mental health problems. A quarter of people affected by these conditions are in problem debt, compared to one in 20 people who do not have mental health problems.

Money and Mental Health is calling for wide-ranging action from the government, the NHS, banks, energy providers and regulators to reduce both the psychological impact of problem debt, and the chances of someone with mental health problems falling into financial difficulty.

Helen Undy, chief executive of Money and Mental Health, said when someone is struggling with their mental health it can be much harder to stay in work or manage their spending, while being in debt can cause huge stress and anxiety.

“Yet despite how connected these problems are, financial services rarely think about our mental health, and mental health services rarely consider what’s happening with our money,” she stated. “The government has an opportunity to use its upcoming Consumer White Paper to introduce minimum standards that people with mental health problems can expect across essential services like energy and banking, to ensure that they get a fair deal.”