Why is our collective mental health ‘deteriorating’, asks new report

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (8-15 May) and it’s time to look at the issue from a new angle, says the Mental Health Foundation. Rather than ask why so many people are living with mental health problems, the charity wants to uncover why too few of us are thriving with good mental health.

Its new report Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s mental health challenges the assumption that ongoing stress is the price we have to pay to keep our lives on track.

Its findings reveal that only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people say that they have experienced a mental health problem. This rises to seven in every ten women, young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone. And more than four in ten people say they have experienced depressed and over a quarter say they’ve experienced panic attacks.

The most notable differences, found in the report, are associated with household income and economic activity: nearly three in four people living in the lowest household income bracket report having experienced a mental health problem, compared to six in ten of the highest household income bracket.

When it comes to work and the impact of employment on mental health: the vast majority (85%) of people out of work have experienced a mental health problem compared to two thirds of people in work and just over half of people who have retired.

However, people over the age of 55 report experiencing better mental health than average. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same age group are the most likely to take positive steps to help themselves deal better with everyday life: including spending time with friends and family, going for a walk, spending more time on interests, getting enough sleep, eating healthily and learning new things.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, overall the survey suggests that our collective mental health is ‘deteriorating’ and we have a long way to go before we can say that we are a ‘thriving nation’.

For more articles on mental health and what employers need to know, see Karen Jackson’s piece Mental Health: the New Year resolutions employers need to make and for cases and news, see here.

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