Family, friends and work seen as having biggest impact on mental wellbeing

Nine in ten people say they are confident they know what it means to have good mental wellbeing according to a new report from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey.

The report, commissioned by Public Health England, also found that the public are aware of different factors that impact on their own mental wellbeing and of the things they can do to improve it:

  • Nine in ten (91%) say they are confident they know what it means to have good mental wellbeing.
  • Seven in ten (72%) feel they know what to do to improve their mental wellbeing.
  • Spending time with friends and family, going for a walk or getting fresh air, and getting more sleep are widely regarded by people as activities which help them feel more positive.

The two factors that people believe have the biggest impact on their mental wellbeing are relationships with family and friends (mentioned by 54% as one of the top 3 factors) and their job or work-life balance (chosen by 42%).

Most people think the things that affect their mental wellbeing are in their control, but those living in deprived areas or those who have experienced a mental health problem are more likely than others to say these things are out of their control.

Stigma remains around mental health problems

The survey also showed that stigma is still something those with mental health problems have to face. Levels of acceptance are higher for a person with depression than for someone with schizophrenia. For example, 71% say they would be willing to move next door to someone with depression, while 45% say the same about someone with schizophrenia.

This stigma is particularly marked in more personal settings, with only 36% of people content to have someone with depression marry into the family and less than 2 in 10 willing to let someone with depression provide childcare for the family.

Perceptions of prejudice in the workplace are also apparent. Very few think that someone with depression (17%) or schizophrenia (8%) that is under control through medication would be just as likely as others to be promoted. And at least a third say that this person’s medical history should make a difference to their promotion prospects.

However, people who have personal experience of mental health problems, or who know someone close to them who has had such problems, express lower levels of prejudice.

Miranda Phillips, Research Director, NatCen Social Research said: “It is good news that so many people feel able to manage their own mental wellbeing. However, so long as the public continues to believe that mental health problems hold you back at work or in your personal life, people with these conditions may feel less able to get help.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE, said: “Knowing what the public think about mental health and mental illness helps us to develop a public health system that improves people’s mental health alongside their physical health. It is inextricably linked with how we think, feel, behave and relate.

“The findings support other research that relationships, job, work-life balance, finances and involvement in decision-making are important to our mental health and we encourage our local and national partners to address these issues in their strategies to improve the public’s mental health and wellbeing.

“The survey also shows that despite making good progress in recent years in addressing stigma and discrimination, there is still a long way to go in challenging attitudes and behaviours.”

The report is available here.