- Almost one in four (23%) adults feel anxious about their current financial situation at least once a day
- Compared to 12 months ago, one in two (51%) said their financial situation has affected their mental health in some way.
- Almost one in three (31%) wouldn’t ask for debt help because they would feel embarrassed.
- Only one in three (31%) would seek professional advice if they felt their mental health was suffering because of their financial situation.
Almost a quarter (23%) of adults in the UK feel anxious about their current financial situation at least once a day. This includes 7% who said they feel anxious all the time, a survey for Nerdwallet has found.
The toll the cost of living crisis is taking on the nation’s mental health is unsurprising given the pressure rising energy bills, food prices and housing costs have put on households. Even with government support, such as the Energy Price Guarantee, many of us are running out of ways we can cut back on expenses.
With Mental Health Awareness Week kicking off on 15 May, our findings reveal how these financial pressures are affecting the nation’s mental wellbeing and our attitudes towards seeking and asking for financial help.
Widespread money worries
Despite forecasts that energy prices and the rate of inflation will fall this year, the cost of living is likely to remain high. This means the worries people have about their finances are unlikely to disappear any time soon.
Indeed, 42% of survey respondents said they feel more worried about their current financial situation compared to one year ago.
And 25- to 34-year-olds seem to be particularly affected, with 57% admitting that they feel more worried compared to 29% of those aged 65 and over.
The impact that money worries are having on younger people, in particular, is further underlined by the fact that 35% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 38% of 25- to 34-year-olds said they feel anxious about their finances at least once per day.
By contrast, only 12% of 55- to 64-year-olds and 11% of over 65-year-olds said they feel this way.
Many factors could explain this higher level of worry among younger age groups, such as rising rents, higher mortgage rates, and growing childcare costs. Whereas many older homeowners may be mortgage free and unconcerned by rent or childcare costs.
London residents are also more affected than people in other regions, 40% of Londoners said they feel anxious about their current financial situation at least once a day. This is significantly more than any other region, with the North East coming the closest at 26%.
Impact on mental health
Our finances are inextricably linked to our overall wellbeing. If you are worrying more about money, whether that’s figuring out how to cut your spending or how to manage your debts, your mental and physical health can start to suffer.
Compared to 12 months ago, just over half (51%) of the 2,000 people we polled said their financial situation has affected their mental health in some way, with 18% saying it had been affected “significantly” or “a lot”.
This figure is even higher among the younger generations. More than three quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds (77%) and 25- to 34-year-olds (80%) answered that their mental health had been affected in some way by their financial situation.
The mental health charity, Mind, says that money worries could cause sleep problems, anxiety, panic, and feelings of isolation and loneliness, among other symptoms.
But it doesn’t just work one way. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you are likely to find it more difficult to cope with your financial situation. For example, you may try to avoid the stress of dealing with your money troubles by leaving bills unopened or carrying on spending as normal. But doing this won’t solve your problems and it could lead to more stress and anxiety in the long term.
It’s better to confront your situation and talk to someone as soon as possible about your worries, both for practical financial help and for your mental wellbeing.
Why aren’t people asking for help?
Many people find it difficult to talk about money, even with their partners or close relatives, and there can be a perceived stigma around debt and asking for financial help.
A quarter of respondents (25%) in our survey said they wouldn’t ask for debt help because they thought they could manage on their own. But trying to cope with your worries and stress alone could prolong your financial struggles and have an even more significant impact on your mental health.
Just as concerning is that almost one third (31%) of people said they wouldn’t ask for debt help because they would feel embarrassed. This figure was higher among women (36%) than men (25%).
Other reasons that people said would stop them from asking for debt help were:
- They don’t want to pay for advice (32%).
- They don’t think their financial situation is serious enough (24%).
- They are worried about the impact on their credit history (19%).
- They are worried about confidentiality (19%).
- They are not aware of the debt help organisations or how to contact them (17%).
- They don’t want to speak about their problems on the phone (17%).
At a time when many people have been struggling financially and could benefit from extra support, there is a concerning reluctance to ask for help and a lack of awareness about what’s available.
Only 31% of respondents said that they would ask for professional advice if they felt their mental health was suffering because of their financial situation.
Where can you get help?
When asked who they would turn to for help if they were struggling with debt, 45% of respondents said they would go to a family member or friend. Only 39% said they would speak to a debt charity or adviser if they were struggling with debt, and just 28% would speak to their credit provider, utility supplier, landlord, or similar. Almost one in five (19%) said they weren’t sure where they would go.
If you are worried about affording your bills, such as your rent, mortgage or utilities, or other payments on a loan or credit card, it’s important to contact your landlord or provider as soon as possible, ideally before you miss any payments.
They may be able to work with you to come up with a new payment plan that’s more affordable or give you longer to make your payments, for example. By contacting your provider sooner rather than later, before you fall behind on your repayments and build up debt, you can stop your situation from getting worse.
There are also several debt charities on hand to offer help. You don’t need to have built up a large amount of debt to contact them; you can get in touch if you are at all worried about your financial situation and want some advice and guidance from a professional.
Organisations that can offer debt advice include:
- Citizens Advice
- National Debtline
- Money Helper
- Debt Advice Foundation
It is completely free to contact these organisations and they can offer a wide range of help. For example, they can talk you through your budget, identify any benefits or extra support that you may be entitled to, help you talk to your creditors, and work out if a debt solution is suitable for you.
In addition to charities that offer specific financial help, you may also want to contact a mental health charity for extra support. There are many different organisations available, with trained professionals who will listen to you and try to help you find a way forward.
Below are just some of the charities you could contact:
- Anxiety UK
- Rethink Mental Illness (England only)
» MORE: How to get debt help
About the research
The survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of independent financial comparison site NerdWallet between 13 and 17 April 2023. It polled a nationally-representative sample of 2,000 adults in the UK.
OnePoll is an MRS Partners Company and its employees agree to adhere to the MRS Code of Conduct and MRS Company Partners Quality Commitment while undertaking research.
Image source: Getty Images
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