People experiencing financial challenges are at least twice as likely to encounter mental health issues than those who aren’t, and vice versa, a new report shows.
In collaboration with Beyond Blue, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) commissioned research to examine the relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health.
The Money and Mental Health Social Research Report confirms previously anecdotal evidence that people face a range of mental health impacts including stress, diagnosable mental health conditions and suicidal thoughts when experiencing financial challenges.
The research also found young adults, women, First Nations people and small business owners are more likely to experience financial challenges and poor mental health.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said there has never been a more important time to understand the relationship between money and mental health and ensure links exist between mental health services and practical financial support.
“Financial wellbeing and mental health are influenced by social inequality, financial literacy, relationships, shame and stigma about both money and mental health, work-status, physical and psychological health, and financial and mental health literacy,” Ms Harman said.
“Our life experience means we all respond differently to financial and mental health challenges and there will always be issues outside of our control that impact our finances – just ask many renters and mortgage holders.
“But there are things we can do to try to stay on top of our financial wellbeing, and actively managing our mental health is one of them. By doing that, we're in better shape to manage our finances and keep things in perspective during challenging times.
"And we need to be doing all we can to help people access financial counselling or mental health support as soon as possible, particularly at a time when so many Australians are feeling the pinch with rising cost of living.”
Ms Harman said the new report confirmed that strengthening links between mental health services and services for people experiencing financial stress was essential, and that Beyond Blue is working with others to develop new tools and referral pathways.
The report also recognises that systemic barriers worsen the distress people experience when they’re under financial pressure. Existing supports can be complex, time-limited, expensive and can take time to access.
ASIC Commissioner Sean Hughes said the research highlights the close and complex relationship between money and mental health.
“ASIC aims to help Australians to be in control of their financial lives, by helping them manage money day to day, make informed financial decisions, and plan with confidence for their future. I welcome the insights this research brings to our understanding of the intersectionality between financial wellbeing and mental health,” Commissioner Hughes said.
Commissioner Hughes said ASIC will continue to work to connect consumers to services that operate with an understanding of the strong links between money and mental health.
“We will also draw on the findings of the research to inform our consumer-facing messaging, including ASIC’s Moneysmart resources,” he said.
Since August 2020, Beyond Blue and Financial Counselling Australia have partnered to encourage people to access information and support to improve their overall wellbeing.
Information on how to manage debt and access financial hardship assistance is available on ASIC’s Moneysmart website.
Free financial counselling is available at the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
The Money and Mental Health Social Research Report executive summary conducted by Heartward Strategic is available here, and the full report is available here.
Beyond Blue Support Service: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au/getsupport