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The state we're in

Evidence type: Insight i


Personal finances and mental health are closely connected, with each one having the potential to affect the other and often resulting in a vicious circle. The Covid-19 pandemic has created new challenges in relation to both money and mental health. For many, household budgets have been squeezed by the impacts on employment, wages, and rising costs. During the course of the pandemic, there has been a rise nationally in the experience of mental health problems including depression and anxiety.

Five years after Money and Mental Health’s first survey of people’s lived experiences of mental health problems and money worries, this study was important for assessing just how much had changed in that time. ‘Mental health problems’ are self-defined by participants in the study based on the question “Have you ever experienced a mental health problem?”

The study

The study was commissioned by Money and Mental Health and funded by Capital One to understand how people with mental health problems in the UK were managing during Covid-19.
The main element of the study that is reported on was an online survey undertaken in June and July 2021 with 5,001 people with lived experience of a mental health problem and 1,000 people without mental health problems. The survey was undertaken by Opinium and the sample was structured and weighted to be representative by gender, age, ethnicity and nation of the UK and region of England based on the NHS Digital’s Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. The analysis included a suite of Latent Class Analysis, a multivariate technique for classifying respondents with mental health problems into groups based on how their financial circumstances and mental health problems interact.

The study also incorporated a review of policy literature, and an online survey of 282 members of the Money and Mental Health Research Community in July 2021 and a focus group with nine members of the Research Community which were provided illustrative quotes for the report.

Key findings

  • Financial difficulties: Compared with those without mental health problems, adults with mental health problems in the UK were more likely to:
    • owe more than 50% of their annual net income in debts (15% vs 8%);
    • have fallen behind on at least one bill payment in the last 12 months (37% vs 14%) and on three or more payments (15% vs 4%);
    • have relied on credit or borrowing to cover everyday expenses (26% vs 11%); and
    • have no savings they could use in emergencies (25% vs 18%).
  • A typology of financial circumstances: Five distinct groups were identified among people with mental health problems: secure (32%); coping (20%); fire-fighting (12%); slipping (15%); sinking (21%).
  • Link with suicidal thoughts or attempts: An estimated 2.5 million UK adults with mental health problems had either considered or attempted to take their own life while they were behind on bills in the last year.
  • Recommendations: Government, employers, essential services firms and the health system all have a role to play in doing more to break the link between money worries and mental health problems.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: The authors do not always clearly define what they mean by debt (i.e. distinguish amounts held in borrowing from amounts owed through problem debts such as arrears). Reference to debts appears to mean amounts outstanding on credit commitments.
    • The authors note that people with low levels of digital literacy are unlikely to be represented in the study. This is likely to extend to those without easy internet access.
    • Sample sizes for some of the headline findings will be smaller than the quoted numbers because they relate to subsets of respondents based on their answers to previous questions.
  • Applicability: The authors note that the definition of mental health problem is self-defined by survey respondents and may not represent clinical diagnosis.
  • Generalisability/transferability: Reported differences between sample groups are not subject to statistical significance testing and may not generalise from the sample to the population.

Key info

Year of publication
Contact information

Nikki Bond and Conor D’Arcy, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 22 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6LE,

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute