Press release: Money worries have left two in three Brits worried about loved one's mental health

Friday 18 May 2018

  • Overall, nearly two-thirds (63%) of UK adults have been concerned about a friend, family member or colleague’s mental wellbeing, linked to money worries
  • Of those who have been worried, the most common signs include changes in mood and temperament (36%), trouble sleeping (31%), and being anxious, stressed or lacking in confidence to contact the bank (22%)
  • This Mental Health Awareness Week, the Money Advice Service is urging people to look out for these signs in themselves or others, and access help, guidance and advice available on mental health, debt and money management

Nearly two-thirds of UK adults (63%) say that stress over money has affected the mental health or wellbeing of someone they know.

This is according to new research from the Money Advice Service released in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Adults in the UK are most likely to have been worried about the mental wellbeing of a family member (47%), a friend (39%) or a partner (35%). Plus, more than half of all adults (55%) have experienced concerns over their own mental health or wellbeing because of money worries at some point in their lives, with more than one in five (22%) saying that they are currently experiencing mental ill health or poor mental wellbeing as a result of their financial situation.

The stress caused by money worries can affect anyone, but the research suggests that younger people are particularly at risk. For those aged 18-34, nearly three-quarters (72%) have at some point experienced mental health or wellbeing issues linked to money. Women are also much more likely than men (61% vs. 49%) to report the same.

The Money Advice Service has developed a checklist, identifying the signs to look out for if you’re concerned that money worries are affecting your own or someone else’s mental health or wellbeing. According to the research, the most common signs include noticeable changes to mood or temperament (36%) and increased tiredness due to lying awake at night (31%). (See appendix for full list).

The signs also highlight how money problems and mental health and wellbeing can be interlinked. One in five (22%) say someone they know has been anxious about contacting their bank or finance provider, while a similar number (21%) have noticed someone close to them spending more money than they have available, to make them feel better in the short term.

Where concerned friends and family are spotting issues, however, many end up carrying the responsibility to help alone. Whilst most people say that they would recommend debt or money advice in practice, almost one in three (30%) say that they offered their own informal help or advice – the most common response.

Where support was recommended, just over a third (36%) encouraged a loved one to seek help with money management, whilst (25%) encouraged a loved one to go to a GP or other mental health service. This gap indicates that a greater awareness of the link between money and mental health issues could help people to help others. Meanwhile, 14% said they would do nothing because they were unsure on what steps might improve the situation.

Debt(38%) is perceived as the biggest financial issue linked to suffering with mental illness – something of particular concern to people aged 18-34 (46%). Being unable to cope with everyday costs such as bills (29%) is another significant issue.

The importance of having money saved was also clear – managing unexpected bills (26%) is reported as influencing mental health. However, four in 10 UK working age adults currently have less than £100 in a formal savings account[i].

Existing research has shown the link between money and mental health and wellbeing. A recent report from the Money Advice Service found that 59% of people contacting them for debt advice reported that they had been diagnosed with a mental health condition. This is much higher than the UK average of 17%[ii].

Sarah Porretta, Financial Capability Director at the Money Advice Service, said, “Sometimes money worries can be a symptom of poor mental wellbeing; sometimes poor mental wellbeing can be the result of money worries. Our research shows that more than half of the UK population have experienced poor mental wellbeing as a result of concerns about money. And two thirds of us have been worried about a loved one’s mental wellbeing linked to money worries.

“Whether it’s finding everyday tasks hard, like keeping on top of bills and bank statements, or finding yourself missing payments, help is available. Talking to someone, and taking the time to focus on your own wellbeing, is a really difficult but hugely important first step. There is a wide range of guidance available on our website, including our Debt Advice Locator tool, or you can reach out to our mental health partners including MIND, the Samaritans, the Mental Health Foundation or Mental Health UK.”

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Unless otherwise indicated in footnotes, data is based on 2,004 online interviews with UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th to 14th May 2018. The survey was carried out online and commissioned from Opinium. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)


Full list of signs that someone may be experiencing mental ill health or poor mental wellbeing due to money worries

  Sign PREVALENCE (as a percentage of those in UK reporting money and mental health worries in themselves or others)
1 Change in mood / temper 36%
2 Increased tiredness or lack of sleep 31%
3 Being anxious, stressed or lacking confidence to directly contact the bank or financial service providers 22%
4 Spending more money than is available 21%
5 Not opening bills or post 19%
6 Feeling like there is a lack of control over my/their money 18%
7 Avoiding talking about money 17%
8 Being anxious about spending any money even though it’s available 16%
9 Talking to you or others about their mental health or wellbeing or money issues 15%
10 Avoiding answering the telephone 14%
11 Not checking my/their bank balance 13%
12 Forgetting to pay bills 12%
13 Changes in spending behaviour 11%
14 Avoiding making important financial decisions 11%
15 Unable to take in and process information about money 11%
16 Taking time off work unexpectedly 9%

Additional relevant research on money and mental health

  • Those receiving debt advice, experience a reduction in levels of depression, anxiety and panic attacks as a result. If you quantify this in financial terms, it equates to a cost benefit to the UK economy of up to £145m per annum, due to the reduced health service costs and improvements to quality of life across these three areas. (Source: The Money Advice Service Economic Impact of Debt Advice report.)
  • Improving financial capability of those with mental ill health resulted in a 9% increase in reported levels of personal wellbeing (Source: The impact of problem debt on health – a literature review by Equity Action.)

About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money guidance online at or via free phone on 0800 138 7777. It also manages the delivery of Debt advice across the UK, which is provided through a variety of partners. 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.

[i] Research released as part of the Money Advice Service’s Closing the Savings Gap report. Summary press release can be found on the MAS website

[ii] Figures based on the report 2016 outcome evaluation of debt advice funded by Money Advice Service, October 2017; direct comparisons should not be made. 59% of clients reported to the survey that they had a mental health diagnosis. This is far higher than measured in national surveys and resonates with high levels of over-indebtedness among people with mental health problems. This report can be downloaded from the MAS website