Two-thirds of British adults have experienced a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression, with less than a fifth experiencing high levels of positive mental health, research has found.
A new study by the Mental Health Foundation on the nation’s mental well-being revealed that the majority of Britons (65%) have experienced a mental health problem.
More than a quarter (26%) reported having had a panic attack and between a third and a half (42%) said they had suffered from depression.
Young people emerged as being most likely to suffer, with 70% of 18- 34-year-olds saying they had experienced such problems, although middle-aged people (35-54) were close behind at 68%. The figure stood at 58% among those over the age of 55.
A suggestion for the age discrepancy was that people aged 55 and over emerged as being more likely to take steps that are known to be good for their mental health and well-being – including getting enough sleep, eating healthily and spending time with friends and family.
Income was also shown to impact levels of mental health, with the findings showing that nearly three-quarters of people living in the lowest household income bracket (less than £1 200 (R21 000) a month) saying they had experienced a mental health problem, while the same applied for 59% of those in the highest household income bracket (over £3 700 or R65 000 a month).
A substantial majority of those out of work (85%), said they had experienced a mental health problem, compared with 66% in work and 53% of retirees.
The study, launched to mark the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, has led the Mental Health Foundation to call for a royal commission to investigate the solutions to prevent mental ill-health, with a focus on reducing risk, along with an annual report on the nation’s mental health.
Responding to the findings, Jenny Edwards, the chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said too few people in the UK enjoyed good mental health, and urged that efforts must be boosted to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place.
“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,” said Edwards.
“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.
“This Mental Health Awareness Week we want to give people some of the tools to move from surviving to thriving. 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.”
The Mental Health Foundation has also called for the introduction of a “100% health” screen – incorporating mental health screening into existing health screening programmes, a community-based resilience programme and more funding for mental health research, with a focus on prevention.