Those in debt are on the edge (thanks to MrsMinifig)
Back in December we talked about debt and depression and how they’re fundamentally linked. It’s not being alarmist to state that millions of people in the UK suffer emotional health problems because of money troubles. However we now know that over 80% of those in debt have moderate or severe depression.
The subject of debt and depression is back in the news today; the BBC reports that money woes are linked to rise in depression. They say,
“GPs and charities said they were being contacted increasingly by people struggling with debt and job worries”
They report that referrals for talking therapies have increased four-fold in the last year and a trigger was likely to be “financial woe”.
This ties in with what we said of a survey commissioned alongside the Guardian last year,
“More than eight out of 10 people with debt problems say their financial difficulties are having a negative effect on their lives”
We originally wrote about the link between debt and depression to tie in with the launch of our StepChange Wellbeing tool in mid-December. It’s an effective, additional service to our online debt advice tool Debt Remedy.
For those that don’t know the tool, it was developed alongside consultants from the World Health Organisation, the Mental Health Foundation and a senior GP from the Royal College of General Practitioners.
StepChange Wellbeing asks 16 medically-endorsed questions to assess levels of anxiety and depression. This gives an insight into the emotional wellbeing of the person, and whether debt is putting them under additional stress.
At the end of a Wellbeing session a recommendation is given. If there are no symptoms then debt isn’t having an effect on their mental health; for mild symptoms we offer online help via a UK version of Australian National University’s e-couch self-help program. If the symptoms appear moderate or severe we recommend that the person visits their GP promptly.
It’s part of our commitment to treat the whole person, not just the debt problem.
Vast scale of debt and depression
We didn’t know the exact scale of the issue at the time we blogged (although the earlier survey had given us an insight), but after four months we’re starting to get a very clear picture.
Nearly 2,500 clients have accessed the Wellbeing service since launch and 83% of them exhibit symptoms of depression or anxiety that could be classed as moderate or severe. These people need to speak with their doctor as soon as possible, as they’re under a stress that is affecting their emotional and mental health.
More eye-opening is that extrapolated across those with debt problems the number of those with depression is massive.
It would mean that of the 418,000 people we counselled last year, 347,000 of them had moderate or severe depression due to debt. And remember that these are the figures of only one free debt help service – the actual numbers could be into the millions.
The BBC article quotes Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of mental health charity Sane. She says,
“It is impossible to say for sure that economic problems are leading to a rise in depression. But we are certainly hearing more from people who are worried where the next meal is coming from, job security and cuts in benefits”
Our figures can help to clarify her statement. While not all depression is due to debt, in the vast majority of cases debt leads to depression.