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What are the most common mental health problems in the UK?

02/12/2015 | By Freedom Health Insurance
You may have seen in the news that Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn recently created a new role in his shadow cabinet – a dedicated Minister for Mental Health. With that in mind, we want to offer some further information about how mental health issues affect people in the UK, and explain what some of the most common disorders are.

Around one in four adults experience mental health issues in Britain

According to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS), a household survey which is completed every seven years, almost one in four British adults experienced some form of psychiatric disorder in 2007 (1).

Though the figures for the 2014 survey are not yet available, both Mind (2) and the Mental Health Foundation (3) estimate that currently around one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any one year.

It’s worth noting that the APMS survey only took a sample of people in private households into account, so it does not include statistics for people in institutions (who may be older and generally in poorer mental health) (1).

Mixed anxiety and depression affects around 9.7% of adults in England (2)

Mind report that according to the household survey mentioned above, mixed anxiety and depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the England, affecting close to a tenth of the population (2). Mixed anxiety and depression is actually a combination of two mental health problems.

Anxiety can be broken down into a number of different mental disorders. According to an article published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) (4), one such anxiety type, generalised anxiety disorder (or GAD) is associated with “substantial distress and disability”. The article also says that GAD “increases the risk of major depression”.

Depression, according to the BMJ, can vary greatly in severity (5). Some of the key features include a pervasive low mood, a reduction in energy, and a loss of interest and enjoyment though there are many other symptoms associated with the disorder and people can be diagnosed with depression without necessarily meeting all of the criteria.

Individually, depression on its own affects around 2.6% of the English population, and anxiety on its own affects 4.7% (2).

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects 3% of adults in England (2)

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (6), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is triggered by a traumatic event such as being violently assaulted, military combat or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
Symptoms can include being hypervigilant at all times or being unable to relax; avoiding talking about the trauma and numbing yourself to emotions; and flashbacks and nightmares (6).

Phobias affect 2.6% of adults in England (2)

The Royal College of Psychiatrists explain phobias as a kind of anxiety (7). Experiencing a phobia means feeling frightened of something that most people are not bothered by and which is not dangerous. A well-known phobia is arachnophobia, which is a fear of spiders, but there are many different types of phobia in existence which can present a range of problems for the sufferer.

For instance, social phobias can make interacting with people difficult, and agoraphobia can cause the sufferer to feel unable to leave the house (7).


There is much still to learn about mental health and there may be disorders and conditions that have not yet been defined by doctors. It is a complex issue, but there is a lot of information available on the disorders that we do know about from reputable sources like Mind and the Mental Health Foundation.
1. HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE INFORMATION CENTRE. Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England - 2007, Results of a household survey [NS] [Online] Available here.
2. MIND. Mental health facts and statistics [Online] Available here.
3. MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION. Mental Health Statistics: UK & Worldwide [Online] Available here.
4. BMJ. Generalized anxiety disorder: diagnosis and treatment [Online] Available here.
5. BMJ. ABC of mental health: Depression [Online] Available here.
6. ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder [Online] Available here.
7. ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS. Anxiety, Panic and Phobias [Online] Available here.