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Two-thirds of Britons have had mental health problems – survey – The Guardian

Two-thirds of British adults say they have experienced mental ill-health at some point in their lives, according to a survey.

The World Health Organisation says one in four people globally are affected by problems such as depression or panic attacks at some point. Research published by the Mental Health Foundation on Monday suggests that the prevalence is far wider in the UK.

The survey of more than 2,000 people suggests that the problem is getting worse, with those between the ages of 18 and 54 more likely to say they have experienced a mental health problem (70% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 68% of 35- to 54-year-olds) than older people (58%).

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our report lays out the sheer scale of the problem. This isn’t an issue that just affects a minority. At some point in our life most of us are likely to experience a mental health problem.

“At the same time, too few of us are thriving with good mental health. We know that only a minority of people experiencing mental ill-health access professional support, which means that we need to redouble our efforts to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place.”

The report was published as Theresa May made an election pledge to introduce new legislation on mental health to provide more support in schools and raise awareness in the workplace.

The survey found that 42% of people said they had experienced depression and around a quarter had had a panic attack. In all, 65% said they had experienced some form of mental health problem 13% described themselves as living with high levels of positive mental health.

People in the lowest household income bracket (earning less than £1,200 per month) were much more likely to have experienced mental ill-health (73%) than those in the highest bracket of more than £3,701 a month ( 59%).

An overwhelming majority of people out of work (85%) said they had experienced a problem, significantly higher than those who were in employment (66%) and retired people (53%). And women (70%) were more likely to say that they have experienced mental ill-health than men (60%).

People aged 55 and over were found to be more likely to have taken steps known to be good for their mental health, including getting enough sleep, eating healthily and spending time with friends and family.

Other research suggests that one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year and one in six in England report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

The Mental Health Foundation survey, carried out by NatCen, shows that while a minority may be suffering at any one time, a majority are affected at some point.

It has become increasing popular in recent years to talk about achieving parity for the treatment of mental health with provision made for physical health problems, but the reality lags behind the rhetoric.

The Mental Health Foundation has set out a five-point plan to achieve that goal, including incorporating mental health screening into existing health screening programmes, increasing funding for mental health research – currently about 6% of the UK’s total health research spend – with a focus on prevention, producing an annual report on the nation’s mental health and a setting up a royal commission to look into how to prevent mental ill-health.

Edwards said: “The barometer of any nation is the health and happiness of its people. We have made great strides in the health of our bodies, we now need to achieve the same for the health of our minds.”

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness week, which begins on Monday, the Prison Reform Trust urged the government to increase support in the justice system for vulnerable defendants, amid record numbers of suicides and self-harm incidents behind bars.

There were 113 self-inflicted deaths in the 12 months to March 2017 and 40,161 self-harm incidents in the year to December 2016. Research suggests that the incidence of mental health problems is much higher. A quarter of the prison population suffers from anxiety and depression, compared with 15% of the general population, and 16% have symptoms of psychosis, compared with 4% on the outside. Additionally, 46% of women and 21% of men in prison have attempted suicide at some point, compared with 6% of the general population.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “These grim figures highlight the urgent need for the next government to address the rapid decline in safety and standards in our prisons, and to deliver on the cross-party commitment to provide timely support for people with mental health needs and learning disabilities in contact with criminal justice services, including when appropriate, diversion into healthcare.”


Source: Two-thirds of Britons have had mental health problems – survey – The Guardian