Most of us experience some money worries at some stage during our lives and it is likely that huge numbers of people are experiencing financial stress right now, with the rising cost of living being a significant concern for many.
According to a new survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, the UK population is experiencing widespread high levels of worry, stress, anxiety and hopelessness; due to their financial circumstances.
In November 2022, ahead of the Chancellor’s autumn statement the Mental Health Foundation warned that urgent action is needed, to prevent a significant rise in mental health issues across the UK.
The survey of 3000 adults, carried out by Opinium between 7 to 14 November 2022, found that:
29% of adults experienced stress,
34% experienced anxiety and,
10% said they felt hopeless,
Due to financial worries during the previous month.
When thinking about the next few months, UK adults say they are most concerned about:
not being able to maintain their standard of living (71%),
heat their home (66%)
pay general monthly household bills (61%).
Significantly, half (50%) of UK adults are at least a little worried about being able to afford food over the next few months, rising to 67% of younger adults aged 18 to 34.
(Source: Mental Health Foundation / Opinium Survey November 2022)
Understanding how mental health and money are linked can help if you're struggling, or if you are worried about a friend, family member or colleague.
Financial difficulties are a risk factor for poor mental health and they lead to stress and anxiety for many. Stigma about debt can result in people struggling to ask for help and, in some cases, they may become isolated. The impact on people’s mental health can be especially severe if they resort to cutting back on essentials, like heating and eating, or if creditors are aggressive when collecting debts.
Financial difficulty dramatically impacts recovery rates for those with common mental health conditions. People with depression and problem debt are more than four time as likely to still have depression 18 months later than people without financial difficulty.
People with problem debt are 3 times more likely to have thought about suicide in the last year. We know that there is very rarely just one factor that leads to people taking their own life. More often there is a range of life events, social issues, personality and cognitive factors that are combined. This said, we know there is a strong link between problem debt and suicide, and over 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while experiencing problem debt every year.
Sometimes it can be hard to recognise the signs of poor mental health. In the context of the mental health impact of financial stress, it is important to be able to look out for the signs of mental ill health.
Some things to lookout for could be:
- Persistent feelings of anxiety or low mood
- Certain situations might trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, like impending events (e.g Birthdays / Christmas) that are costly, opening envelopes or having any conversations about money or finances
- Worrying about money can lead to sleep problems for some people – not being able to sleep, or waking up feeling worry or panic
- Not being able to afford the fundamentals that are needed stay well. This might be housing, food, water, heating, or treatments like medication and therapy.
- Money problems can be a barrier to connection with loved ones and can be the cause of arguments and upset, which can affect social life and relationships.
- Feeling like you cannot afford to do the things you enjoy can cause feelings of exclusion which can lead to
- Loneliness and isolation.
Let’s look now at some ways to deal with and reduce the mental health impact of financial stress.
Dealing with financial stress tip 1: Talk to someone
When facing money problems, there’s often a temptation to bottle everything up and try to deal with things alone. Many of us even consider money a taboo subject, one not to be talked about with others. Bottling things up will only make financial stress worse. In the current financial, where many people are struggling through no fault of their own, you’ll likely find others are far more understanding of your problems.
Tip 2: Take inventory of your finances
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, it might be tempting to stick your head in the sand- leaving bills unopened, avoiding phone calls from creditors, or ignoring bank and credit card statements. But not facing the reality of the situation will only make things worse. The first, necessary, step is to devise a plan to solve your money problems by detailing your income, debt, and spending over the course of at least one month.
Tip 3: Make a plan—and stick to it
The more detailed you can make your plan, the less powerless you’ll feel over your financial situation. Enlist the support of your friends and family to help you stick to your plan.
Tip 4: Create a monthly budget
Whatever your plan to relieve your financial problems, setting and following a monthly budget can help keep you on track and regain your sense of control.
Tip 5: Get professional support if you need it
Get in touch with an approved debt management advisor if you are not able to manage your circumstances alone. If financial stress is impacting your mental health and wellbeing, seek professional support – the best first step is to speak to your GP.
For more details on the mental health training and support that we can provide – please contact us now.
With love, the MHIB Team.