Charity warns that nation’s mental health has failed to rebound since the dark days of the pandemic

16 November 2022

New online research by YouGov for charity Rethink Mental Illness reveals people more likely to report that their mental health has worsened since start of year, when the nation was in the midst of the Omicron wave and Plan B pandemic restrictions were in place

National charity Rethink Mental Illness has warned the nation’s mental health has failed to rebound after the pandemic, with more than one quarter of UK adults (29%) reporting that their mental health is now worse compared to the start of the year, contrasted against 21% who said that it was better.

Of those that said their mental health had become worse since January 2022:

  • 1 in 5 people (20%) reported they had experienced suicidal thoughts
  • More than 1 in 10 (12%) reported that they had experienced a mental health crisis and needed professional support
  • 21% said they had experienced panic attacks

The results showed younger adults were more likely to have faced significant challenges with their mental health this year, with nearly 1 in 3 people aged 18-24 who said their mental health was worse reporting suicidal thoughts (32%), and just under a quarter (24%) reporting a mental health crisis that had required professional support.

Other impacts reported at high levels across all age groups include low mood/ feeling down (77%), feeling anxious and/ or worried (74%) and difficulty sleeping (60%).

Tom, 31, who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, social anxiety disorder and PTSD, experienced a decline in his mental health this year. He said:

“Since the start of the year, my mental health has deteriorated to the point that I had to be signed off work. The spiralling cost of living has made it difficult to afford the things I need, leading to many nights spent wide-awake wondering how I’m going to pay the bills, and with members of my family in the armed forces, I’ve also felt unsettled and worried about the war in Ukraine.

“I’ve experienced mental illness in the past, and over the years I’ve picked up tools to cope and had recovered well. But the constant stress and worry this year put my mental health on shaky ground, derailing some of the good progress I'd made and putting me in a dark place. Looking towards the future, I’m anxious about recession and the possibility that the government simply won't make the investment in mental health that they need to. I feel lucky to have such brilliant support from my family, but I know a lot of people find themselves in a similar boat to me - things were meant to get better after the pandemic but we find ourselves sliding backwards.”

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“We know that the pandemic had a massive impact on people’s mental health and that it may take some years to comprehend the full extent of what we lived through during those dark days. The end of pandemic restrictions was often seen as the light at the end of the tunnel and there was much public conjecture about the impact of lockdown. But this survey reveals that in the year we were able to live our lives without restrictions, bubbles and social distancing, people were more likely to report their mental health has worsened or stayed the same, than they are to report a meaningful improvement.

“At the time of the January restrictions, people were telling us just how much they were struggling. Now the rules have eased, it feels mental health has taken a back seat even though the link between mental health and money worries has come to the fore as the economic gloom settles over the country, with worrying numbers of people reporting suicidal thoughts or reaching crisis. It’s imperative that we focus on mental health during this cost of living crisis as we did during the pandemic, if not more.

“The government must seize the opportunity to turn the tide on mental health by delivering on its commitment to protect the most vulnerable by uprating benefits in line with inflation, investing in NHS and social care services to help them meet the surge in demand, and publishing a fully-funded 10-year plan for mental health.”

The polling did suggest that there is cause for some optimism about the year ahead, however. While many people still said they felt their mental health would be about the same in 12 month’s time (52%), there was more positive variation, with 23% of people saying that they expected their mental health to become better compared to 13% who felt it would become worse. Of those that expected their mental health to be worse, 70% cited their personal finances as a factor that might lead to this.


Notes to Editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2073 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 28th October 2022.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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About Rethink Mental Illness

No matter how bad things are, we can help people severely affected by mental illness to improve their lives. We’re Rethink Mental Illness, a leading charity provider of mental health services in England. 

  • We support tens of thousands of people through our groups, services and advice and information. 
  • We train employees, employers and members of the public on how best to support someone affected by mental illness. 
  • We campaign for the rights of people living with mental illness and their carers. 

Working alongside the people we support, we are saving lives. 

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