Rises in mental health problems linked with Universal Credit

A recent study has linked a spike in reported mental health problems amongst the unemployed with the continued rollout of government welfare reforms such as Universal Credit


  • The numbers reporting psychological distress rose some 6.6% between 2013 and 2018.
  • The percentage represents an extra 63, 674 individuals in England, Wales and Scotland.
  • Some 21,760 became clinically depressed during this period.
  • The government highlighted that no casual link could be found.



mental health universal creditMounting Evidence


Co-author of the Lancet Public Health Journal Study said it had found observational associations rather than cause and effect. She went on to say that the spike in mental health cases could also be influenced by the broader changes in the welfare system and not solely those on Universal Credit.

But the study has added to the mounting evidence of substantial psychological harms related to universal credit.

It is crucial the government need to take into account the sudden and prolonged impact these changes are having on the mental and physical wellbeing of claimants. It has been recommended that health-impact assessments should be given to applicants and claimants, but as of yet, these have not come into fruition.


mental health universal creditDelays and Debt


First launched in 2013, Universal Credit combined six benefits into one monthly payment. It was an attempt to simplify the welfare system and get more people into work.

With the average wait time for the first payment being five weeks, many have little choice but to accept an advanced payment. This advanced payment or loan is to help claimants manage until they start receiving their regular monthly payments. But, once those payments begin, the advance is taken out of their Universal Credit. And this is where many struggle with managing their money.

Housing charity Shelter says:

Deductions for rent arrears and loan repayments are now double what they used to be under the old system. Many are struggling to cope.

The long delay in receiving payment is increasing debts, including rent arrears. The advances are putting people into further debt before giving them a chance to pay it back.