Depression and Debt Thought to be Linked

It’s no secret that money problems cause worry. Countless UK consumers struggle with financial challenges, adding stress and anxiety to their lives. But there appears to be a closer relationship between problem debt and mental health than was previously thought, according to recent analysis.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute suggests money and mental health problems are strongly linked, citing a number of statistics from recently analysed data. Their research suggests some types of mental illness are more directly associated with mental health conditions, but that various forms of mental disease are closely linked to money and debt concerns.

Problem Debt Prevalent Alongside Mental Illness

A timely BBC article recently highlighted results of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study, which included responses from more than seven-thousand Englanders. The polling data was interpreted by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, drawing conclusions about the coexistence of mental health and problem debt.

According to the piece, people struggling with mental health issues may be three and one-half times more likely to be experiencing simultaneous debt problems, than individuals without such health concerns. Those with certain conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression may be even more likely to have noted financial problems.

Furthermore, the survey analysis indicates having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may make it 6 times more likely for someone from the UK to have coexisting debt problems. As a result of the correlation identified by the study, the Institute is asking for more comprehensive measures, protecting those with problem debt and mental illness.

Millions Affected by the Issue

UK consumers have access to various sources of financing, including credit cards, mortgages, instalment loans, and a wide selection of payday products. Although debt is a natural feature of personal finance, running-up credit card charges or overextending on a house purchase can tip the scales, turning ordinary, manageable debt into a larger load, hard to repay. Mental illness complicates the problem. According to the Institute’s analysis, upwards of 1.5 million Britons may be affected by serious money troubles and mental health problems at the same time.

Among the impacted people shared in the survey profile, Debbie, from West Midlands represents a typical example of how problem debt and mental health problems appear together. After her father’s passing, Debbie struggled with depression, contributing to a period of runaway spending. As her mood bottomed out, she would make credit card purchases to distract from her grief – often spending money on items she did not need.

From increased travel expenses associated with her job, to ballooning store card, credit card, and catalogue debt; Debbie’s obligations grew unmanageable, ultimately reaching £70,000 in total outstanding balances. Like others in her shoes, Debbie chose bankruptcy, believing it to be her only way out of the hole.

According to the survey analysis, one in four people like Debbie, suffering from depressive conditions, also grapple with financial crises, compared to only one in twenty people without mental health challenges. It is thought symptoms of depression such as poor concentration, lack of focus, and mood swings may make it harder for afflicted Britons to effectively manage their finances, potentially resulting in problem debt.

Staying in work can be difficult for people suffering under the weight of depression, and spending to feel better is also common, further complicating their financial outlook. For many, the cycle of depression combined with oppressive debt results in a condition that’s hard to reverse. Unable to break the pattern, the cycle feeds itself, dragging individuals lower.

With new data illustrating the negative relationship between mental health issues and problem debt, a call has gone out for the government and other stakeholders to do a better job recognising the link, before people find themselves in crisis.

Paul graduated in 2001 with a degree in Finance. Since then he has gone on to work for several of the UK's most well-known financial institutions.

An avid blogger and a huge football fan, Paul is here to guide you through the ins and outs of personal finance and perhaps save you some money in the process!

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