The link between mental health and financial wellbeing

The pandemic has provided a clear illustration that the link between money and our mental health is just as strong as we think. 

The economic impacts of COVID-19 have been felt in lots of different ways. Some people were able to save money as spending opportunities were curtailed. But many others lost their jobs and saw their incomes reduced.  

Those who experienced sudden and significant drops in household income during the crisis suffered the sharpest increases in mental illness, according to research by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). If ever you needed proof of the relationship between financial difficulties and mental health issues, this is it. 

A vicious circle 

According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, almost half of people in problem debt also have a mental health problem. It found that 86% of respondents to its survey of nearly 5,500 people with experience of mental health problems said their financial situation had made those problems worse.

Research also shows that people with mental health problems were likely to be hit harder by any loss of income due to the pandemic and were more exposed to financial hardship.

Certain conditions can make it harder to manage finances effectively, too. For example, 42% of adults with poor mental health, low mental capacity or cognitive difficulties find dealing with customer services on the phone confusing or difficult, according to a 2020 survey by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Just over a third are anxious when shopping around for financial products and services; a third put off dealing with financial matters, such as ignoring warning letters, and 29% had fallen into debt because they had not wanted to deal with difficult financial situations. 

Lack of experience increases stress levels 

Money worries can be a trigger point for lots of people. It’s common for financial difficulties to arise from emotionally challenging life events. 

Some of the financial events in your life that may only happen once or twice are often linked to personal circumstances and have an emotional connection. These include buying a house, dealing with a close family bereavement and having to work on wills and probate. 

If you have no prior experience of dealing with these matters, it’s not surprising that it’s often stressful and complex. There’s never an appropriate time to prepare yourself the first time around, which is why it’s vital to have a support team in place to help you through such circumstances.  

Identify your support team 

It’s worth identifying that support team before anything happens, so you know who to call on when you need to. 

It might include friends and family members, as well as official forms of support. For example, if debt is an issue, free advice services such as StepChange Debt Charity and Citizens Advice can be helpful, while Money Helper is a valuable source of free, impartial guidance and information. 

To deal with mental-health difficulties and navigating your way through challenging life events, GPs, counsellors and psychotherapists may also have an important role to play in helping you. You can find a local counsellor on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website or at Counselling Directory, while there may be local services offering access to free or affordable counselling. 

You could also consider working with a financial coach if day-to-day money management is an issue, while a traditional financial adviser can provide planning and advice services and help you to focus on dealing with whatever you’re going through in life.

Some financial advisers are now qualified as coaches to help with issues around money and mental health, while a number of firms provide resources for advisers working with clients they identify as being vulnerable.

Health, life events, financial resilience and capability are the four key drivers that an adviser will consider ensuring the most appropriate and relevant assistance. 

When enlisting a financial adviser or coach, not only will they help you with the issue, they can also offer you the head space to process what you’re dealing with to ease the stress of the situation.

Click here to find out how to improve the financial wellbeing of your employees.