Report reveals impact of mental health problems on financial capability

24th January 2017

Banks and financial institutions must change the way they operate to give customers with mental health problems equal access to good customer service, a leading mental health think tank has urged. New research fully demonstrates for the first time how financial capability – people’s ability to manage everyday financial tasks like paying bills or budgeting – is affected by periods of poor mental health, putting these consumers at serious disadvantage and causing untold harm. A rigorous survey of peer-reviewed academic literature shows that:

  • People with depression, OCD or PTSD are likely to struggle with short-term memory. This can make it much harder to remember PIN numbers or the details of a conversation with the bank
  • People experiencing bipolar disorder or ADHD often struggle to resist impulses, and may go on dramatic spending sprees, sometimes funded by credit cards and overdrafts
  • People with borderline personality disorder or psychosis can find it very difficult to compare options and might struggle to work out which financial products are right for them
  • Depression, substance dependence, borderline personality disorder and psychosis can all make it more difficult for people to plan ahead, meaning customers may not understand the implications of financial decisions like taking out a loan
  • Serious anxiety can cause difficulty making telephone calls or opening post, making it harder to deal with financial problems and to keep track of bills

From textphone to wheelchair accessible branches, it’s now widely accepted that adaptations are needed to support people with physical disabilities to use financial services. But adaptations to support those with mental health problems are rare, even though consumers with these health conditions are three times more likely than those without to be in financial distress.

Simple changes like introducing voice recognition to access accounts, offering a written record of telephone conversations or allowing customers to speak to a company on web chat or by email could make all the difference between managing well and ending up in serious debt as a result of missed payments and bank charges.

Polly Mackenzie the Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said “For too long, it’s been assumed that when people with mental health problems get behind on bills, or struggle to stick to their budget, it’s because they’re lazy or incompetent. Our research proves beyond doubt that’s just not true.

“We have assembled all the evidence to prove that mental health problems can severely affect consumers’ ability to stay on top of their finances, shop around, or manage a budget. It’s time for the financial services industry to adapt its services to help support people when they’re unwell – just as they do to help people with physical disabilities who struggle to access a branch or engage on the phone.

“One in four of us will experience a mental health condition in any year, so this is not a niche problem: it should be core business. Today’s report should be the starting gun in a new race to the top for banks, energy companies and everyone else who supplies essential services. This is a significant chunk of their market, who are currently left under-served.”

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of Debt Advice for the Money Advice Service said This report highlights there is a strong link between mental health and money issues, from remembering pins and budgeting, through to more severe issues such as problem debt. The report calls on banks and financial institutions to do more for people living with mental health conditions, and the debt sector is well placed to provide such vital support. 52% of people who received debt advice from our services have a mental health condition and our debt advisers are experienced when it comes to working with these people.

 “It is therefore important that there is closer working between the mental health, finance and debt advice sectors so that people can be supported holistically. “

To read the report visit