Mental health

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • People who are working are at much lower risk of mental illness than those who are either unemployed or long-term sick or disabled, with the proportions assessed as being at high risk being 10-20% for those who working, around 30% for those who are unemployed and 50% for those who are long-term sick or disabled.
  • For each work status, the proportion of women assessed as being at high risk is somewhat higher than that for men.

Definitions and data sources

The graph shows the proportion of working-age adults who are classified as being at high risk of developing a mental illness, with the data shown separately for three groups of people: currently employed, currently unemployed, and long-term sick or disabled.  Data for other work economic statuses. e.g. retired, family care and students, is not shown.  In each case, the data is also shown separately for men and women.

The risk of developing a mental illness is assessed by asking informants a number of questions about general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance over the previous four weeks, which are designed to detect possible psychiatric morbidity.  A score is constructed from the responses, and the figures published show those with a score of 4 or more.  This is referred to as a ‘high GHQ12 score’.

The importance of mental health or well-being is widely recognised in national reports and policy initiatives, although finding reliable measures of its prevalence is limited by the fact that much of the available data is of either a self-reporting or an administrative kind – for example, hospital admission rates – and, as such, fails to pick up on the hidden morbidity of those with mental health problems who have failed to come to the attention of service providers.  This graph therefore acts as a reasonable proxy.

The data source is the British Household Panel Survey.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest five years.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The graph does not measure mental ill health directly, but provides a guide to numbers who display some of the symptoms and are therefore at risk.

External links