Money on the mind: a nation feeling the cost

One in five (21%) UK adults say they are drowning in debt and money worries, with many saying that their mental health has deteriorated as a result

· Close to half (49%) of Britons are now in the red with the average debt now at £4,374

· One in 10 (10%) of those in debt admit that poor mental health has made it difficult to manage their money and pay off bills

· Money worries cost us 46 minutes of sleep a night

· No money problems are unsolvable - use the Debt Advice Locator Tool to find free, impartial help in your area.

One in five (21%) UK adults say they are drowning in debt and money worries, with many experiencing mental health issues as a result.

The new findings published by Money Advice Service ahead of World Mental Health Day this week, reveal that half (49%) of all Britons have some personal debt (excluding a mortgage and student loan), which is worth £4,374 on average. Of those in debt, one in 10 (10%) admit that mental health issues have made it difficult for them to manage their money and pay off bills.

There is a strong relationship between debt and mental health, with money problems being both a cause and a result of poor mental health. People experiencing financial difficulties are more likely to feel anxious, depressed and stressed, while those with an existing mental health problem find themselves more likely to get into debt. The figures show that of those who are currently in some form of debt, two fifths (38%) have felt anxious and a third (34%) have suffered from stress, depression (29%) or mood swings (21%).

Trouble sleeping appears to be the norm amongst those in debt, costing the average person with debt 46 minutes of sleep a night. The pattern remains during waking hours, with those in debt spending an average of 59 minutes in a typical day agonizing over their debt problems. Late evening between 8pm and 10pm is the most common time for worrying – with 11% saying that this is the time they worry the most about their debt.

Along with the financial worries, struggling with debt often leads to a strain on relationships. Among those who are in debt, one in six (16%) say that their debt has affected their relationship with their partner and a similar number (15%) say it has made them withdraw from their family and friends.

At the same time, close to one in five (18%) of those with debt say that they have spent more money, comfort eaten (17%) and drunk more alcohol than they should (15%) in an attempt to make them feel better. A further fifth (22%) say their debt has made it hard for them to concentrate.

John Penberthy-Smith, Customer Director at the Money Advice Service said: “No matter how bad it seems and how bad you are feeling – no money problems are unsolvable.

“Debt isn’t just a financial problem, it can cause real damage to relationships and family, put the roof over your head at risk and can leave you feeling a shadow of your former self. As our research shows debt can impact all aspects of your life – from laying awake at night, feeling anxious and withdrawn to overeating or turning to alcohol. If that sounds like you, then you may be one of thousands of people suffering from debt-related stress. We – and all those who do great work at mental health charities and institutes – know that it doesn’t have to be this way. So in advance of World Mental Health Day tomorrow we are calling on everyone with money worries, no matter how large or small, to access free advice as soon as possible.”

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said: “We know that money and mental health are often linked. If you are struggling to keep control of your money, you may find that your mental health is affected. Equally, if you are experiencing a period of mental ill health you may find that you get into financial difficulties, with three times as many adults with a mental health problems reporting money problems than those without. With this new research from Money Advice Service finding around half of UK adults in debt, excluding student loans and mortgages, this is a really important issue that affects millions of us.

“This report highlights how money worries can cause sleepless nights, and impact on our wellbeing. If you’re not getting enough sleep, this can also make your mental health worse. For anyone with an existing mental health problem like anxiety or depression, money issues can make your mental health deteriorate further. Symptoms of certain mental health problems might increase your likelihood of falling into debt. Bipolar disorder can cause people to spend extravagantly during a manic phase and depression and anxiety can sometimes make it very hard to communicate with creditors about money problems, with some people telling us that they stick their heads in the sand rather than asking for help early on. That’s why we are echoing Money Advice Service’s call for anyone struggling with money or debt to make use of their free impartial advice before things – both health and finance - worsen.”

Simon Crine, interim director at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said: “We welcome yet more evidence about the devastating link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. Few things affect our mental health as directly as how much we have in our wallets and purses; rising levels of debt pose a real threat to our, already overburdened, mental health system. If you’re worried about your finances, it’s important to seek free debt advice, but there’s more that the banks, NHS and retailers can do too. As a research institute, we’re calling on industry to join with us to design products, tools and services that can help break that toxic link between money and mental health problems for good.”

Brian Dow, Director of External Affairs at Rethink Mental Illness said, “This study shows just how vicious the cycle of mental health and money can be and, though the effect of this can be dreadful for many aspects of someone’s life, it is a cycle that can be broken with the right support at the right time.”

People who would like help to get their finances back on track can use the Debt Advice Locator Tool to find free, impartial help in their area. Money Advice Service also has a range of tools to help people manage their money and avoid financial difficulties, such as the Budget Planner Tool



Opinium conducted quantitative research on behalf of the Money Advice Service; among a sample of 2,006 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ during October 2017. These questions asked about respondents’ approach to debt and mental health.

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About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money advice online at, over the phone on 0300 500 5000, and face-to-face right across the UK. The Service was set up by Government and is paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority. Its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding and knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system); and to enhance the ability of members of the public to manage their own financial affairs.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493. It conducts research and develops policies for banks, lenders, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.