Is financial stress directly linked and fuelling mental health issues?

This is a question that has never been more pressing than during the lockdown year the world has faced. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week on the 14th – 20th May this year which actually has been an annual event since 2001. Over the last 12 months, the pandemic effects have seen more people reach out to mental health charities for support, and according to, the UK is in a mental health crisis.

Inevitably the knock-on effect of the pandemic and the end of the furlough scheme will mean this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is more poignant than ever. Investigating further, we have found that mental health and wellbeing are overwhelmingly connected to financial stress, and the effects of financial pressure on the workforce create a self-fulling prophecy. Meaning you are more likely to suffer from poor mental health if you have financial worries, and economic instability can cause mental health problems. 

Statistics Prove the Link

Poor mental health and money problems often go hand in hand. Recent research shared by shows that in England alone, over 1.5 million people are experiencing mental health problems brought on by un-serviceable debt, and those figures are likely to increase as a direct result of the worldwide pandemic, and it’s knock-on effects.

The report says the statistics reinforce the message that people with a debt problem are more likely to experience poor mental health. The figures look like this:

  • 46% of people with a debt problem also have mental health problems.
  • 86% of the respondents to the survey (5,500 people) with mental health problems said their financial situation had caused their mental health problems to deteriorate further still.
  • Equally, people with poor mental health are also more likely to be in problem debt
  • 18% of people with mental health problems do not address their problem debt.
  • 5% of those experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt than    people with good mental health.
  • 72% of respondents said that their mental health problems had made their financial situation worse.

It’s clear that a debt problem and poor mental health are inextricably linked, that one problem fuels the other, but how exactly does being in financial difficulty directly affect a staff member?

  • Financial difficulties are a common cause of extreme stress, and stigma around debt can mean that people don’t ask for help and become isolated.
  • Mental health can be particularly severe if an employee resorts to cutting back on essentials, such as heating and eating.
  • Financial difficulty reduces recovery rates for common mental health conditions. Those with depression and problem debt are 4.2 times more likely to have depression still, 18 months later.
  • Sadly, people with unresolvable debt are three times as likely to have thought about suicide in the last twelve months.

More than 100,000 people in England attempt suicide while in problem debt each year, proving a solid link between debt and suicide. 

What Can Be Done to Remove Financial Stress?

Responsible and progressive employers will know if employees are struggling with personal debt, primarily due to current events; debt is indiscriminate across all demographics, geographically and in all business sectors. Every HR department will be aware of agencies that can help with debt and personal finance problems. An excellent place to find free advice and help is the Citizens Advice Bureau and the government’s Money and Pensions Service. 

Employers also realise that if they can promote a sense of wellbeing in any way that doesn’t involve an increase in salaries, they will have solved a huge problem and, in doing so, will improve morale and productivity all in one go.

Many forward-thinking companies are making the wellbeing of employees a priority, with the return to work imminent for many as COVID restrictions are lifted. Businesses with frontline and key workers are looking for ways to protect workers’ mental health to promote a sense of wellbeing.

Highlighting the problem is a report produced by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development). The body that regulates HR professionals states that a financial wellbeing policy should form an integral part of every employer’s holistic wellbeing strategy. The CIPD says that the following steps are easy to implement without being costly to any organisation.

  • Communication is fundamental – make sure your employees know all the benefits you currently offer and be transparent on making the most of them.
  • Begin a dialogue with employees and line managers about the financial challenges and opportunities they face and the business. An open conversation will show your concern and help to break down the stigma associated with money problems.
  • By implementing benefits platforms and other workplace benefits, employers can make it easy for their staff to change their lives positively.

Introducing fastP.A.Y.E, the only ethical and flexible wage app available, can promote a sense of financial wellbeing and significantly contribute to an employer’s holistic wellbeing strategy.

Here are the benefits to you and your organisation.

  • Configurable Salary Advance – Allows employees to access some of their already earned money before payday to avoid unnecessary debt caused by shortfalls at the end of the month or when unexpected bills arise.
  • Financial Education – FastP.A.Y.E works with various charities and provides access to up to date education and advice from the Money Advice Service. 
  • Using the app provides users with the necessary tools to encourage healthy financial decisions.
  • Benefits Assessment – FastP.A.Y.E provides a benefits calculator designed to assess employee eligibility for various Government benefits and grants. 
  • The system is a perk and is free to employees.
  • The benefits of use include increased staff retention and improved morale. 
  • Benefits such as this are known to increase applicant pools as candidates assess companies who offer a quality of life and wellbeing strategy as standard.

The world of work has come a long way in the last five years, but the need for employer support has exceeded expectations in the previous 12 months. According to Glassdoor, the recruitment consultants, work-life balance and wellbeing strategies are as important as salaries when prospective employees are looking for full-time employment or a career change.

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