United Kingdom

Are you aware of the link between financial issues and mental health?

April 2019

At a glance

  • There is a strong correlation between mental health conditions and financial problems
  • Aon calls for employer-led support for those with mental health conditions and better access to financial education
  • Research points to changing employee expectation as more employees demand more wellbeing support around mental health and finance

Head in hands

Those struggling with mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders are more likely to also be struggling with debt and other financial problems, new analysis has found.

Research carried out by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute which looked at data from a recent Adult Psychiatry Survey of 7,500 people across England found that 1.5 million people with mental health disorders also have debt problems.

In particular, a strong correlation was found between those with depression, bipolar disorder and money problems. Those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) were up to six times more likely to be struggling with debt. Low mood and poor concentration was also outlined as having an impact on a person’s ability to manage finances, according to the report.

Speaking to the BBC, Helen Undy, chief executive at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said: “When you’re struggling with your mental health, it can be much harder to stay in work or manage your spending, while being in debt can cause huge stress and anxiety – so the two issues feed off each other, creating a vicious cycle which can destroy lives.”

Calls for greater support

The research comes as experts from Aon have called for employers to provider greater support around mental health and financial education, especially among younger employees.

“We know that meeting employees’ diverse needs remains a challenge for employers, but segmenting the workforce to target and tailor interventions is a useful place to start,” said Charles Alberts, head of health management at Aon. “Younger employees at the early stages of their career for instance, may require greater support with their financial wellbeing. With lower incomes and conflicting demands on how they spend this income, it can be easy to fall into poor financial habits.”

Commenting on the research, Alberts said it provides ‘valuable insight’ into the ‘two directional relationship’ between mental health and finances, while setting the case for a more holistic approach to employee health and wellbeing. Employers should consider taking a ‘sustained and whole person view’ if wellbeing interventions are to have a ‘genuine impact’, Alberts said.

Changing employee expectations

Aon’s own Benefits and Trends 2019 survey in particular, found that support for mental health was one of the top five changes of employee expectations of the workplace. 79 per cent of respondents said they expected better awareness around mental health issues while 54 per cent said they wanted access to financial education.

“The impact of this changing trend and new expectations of employers shouldn’t be underestimated,” Alberts added. “Employers need to evolve their approach to mental health support in order to keep pace with their employees. It’s fast becoming a must have, especially with newer generations entering the workplace.”

Backing this trend, employees are more forthcoming in speaking about their mental health and accessing more treatment than ever before, according to research from Bupa. The insurer found that the number of claims for mental health treatment through work has increased by 53% over the 10 years to 2017, with treatment for stress and anxiety more than doubling over this period.

“It’s great to see more employees feeling comfortable to speak openly about their mental health and accessing appropriate support. And with the right treatment by a professional and support from the workplace, all employees can be afforded the same opportunity to be their best at work, no matter what mental health problems they face,” said Alberts.

For more information or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or calling us on 0344 573 0033.


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