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The intersecting impacts of mental ill-health and money problems on the financial wellbeing of people from ethnic minority communities

Evidence type: Insight i


While there is already strong existing evidence that financial difficulties and mental health problems are interrelated, less is known about how these issues can impact the financial wellbeing of people from minoritised ethnic groups.

Money problems can impact mental health, and mental health conditions can cause, contribute to or compound difficulties with finances. About one-in-four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year and research highlights that people from some minoritised ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected by certain mental health conditions.

The term ‘minoritised ethnic groups’ is used in the report to acknowledge “that people become minoritised or marginalised by power imbalances and the actions (or inaction) of others, rather than naturally existing as a minority.” (p6)

The study

The Money and Pensions Service commissioned the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton to undertake a study which aimed to:

  • Investigate the compounding impact of mental health and money problem on people from ethnic minority communities in the UK.
  • Identify the reasons why people from ethnic minority communities engage less with debt advice and money guidance services in the UK context.

Between February and March 2022, 21 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with representative from a variety of organisations who support people from minoritised ethnic groups with financial difficulties, mental health problems, or both. These qualitative interviews, which formed the main part of the study, were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

In addition to the interviews, the study incorporated a narrative review of academic literature from a systematic search of two academic databases (Psychinfo and Medline) and snowballing from these, resulting in the screening of 309 items of literature.

Key findings

  • Experiences of financial problems: Living on lower incomes due to difficulties finding good quality employment; incurring additional costs; difficulties with the benefits system; and difficulty accessing or using the right financial services products.
  • A ‘vicious cycle’ between money and mental health problems: Key drivers among minoritised ethnic communities specifically included:
    • A ‘double stigma’ in which it is particularly difficult to discuss either money or mental wellbeing.
    • Concern about the long-term impacts on children of using them as translators when talking about such issues.
    • Compounding effects of limited English language skills on stress or anxiety about dealing with finances
    • Lack of recourse to public funds for those from minoritised ethnic communities experiencing domestic or economic abuse
    • Lack of trust in the UK benefits system can result in concerns about being penalised or sanctioned when seeking help for financial issues.
  • Potential solutions: Suggestions by participating organisations for the sector included: resolving language barriers; building trust and understanding; overcoming cultural barriers to support; improving collective understanding of communities’ needs. Participating organisations suggested the findings should be of interest to a wide range of stakeholders including Government departments, the financial services sector, the social welfare legal advice sector, and health and care providers.

Points to consider

  • Applicability: The authors note the interview participants typically work with some of the most vulnerable people and that the background issues they may face do not necessarily apply to everyone of that ethnicity.
    • The report implies that the findings relate specifically to minoritised ethnic groups. It is important to note that they may also be applicable to people from ethnic minority backgrounds who are not themselves minoritised, according to that narrow definition, or do not identify as such.
    • The findings are likely to apply beyond the debt advice sector, and potentially beyond the UK context to other contexts with minoritised ethnic groups.
  • Generalisability/transferability: The authors note that only 27 out of 95 organisations that were contacted to take part in the qualitative interviews responded positively that they wished to do so (a further 4 could not be interviewed in time). Although the remaining 21 organisational representatives have a good spread (by support for particular ethnic backgrounds, geography, and expertise) the report does not consider the potential gaps or biases in the coverage of organisations as a result of self-selection within the sample which might make generalisation of the findings difficult.

Key info

Year of publication
United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales
Contact information

Jamie Evans (Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol), Thomas Richardson (School of Psychology, University of Southampton), Katie Cross (Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol), Sara Davies (Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol), Peter Phiri (School of Psychology, University of Southampton and Southampton Health NHS Foundation Trust), Nick Maguire (School of Psychology, University of Southampton) and Rachel Jenkins (Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London).