Four in five say mental health as important as physical health – but just one in five think NHS treats it that way

New research by Ipsos MORI and King’s College London reveals attitudes towards mental health around the world.

The author(s)

  • Anna Quigley Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • James Stannard Public Affairs
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Just one in five (20%) Britons think the health system prioritises mental health to the same extent as physical health, despite four in five (82%) saying the two are equally important, according to a new global survey for World Mental Health Day.

The research, by Ipsos MORI and the Policy Institute at King’s College London, reveals attitudes towards mental health around the world.

The survey also finds that Britain is more tolerant than many countries when it comes to mental health. Just over three-quarters (76%) of the British public think mental illness is an illness like any other – the highest of all the countries polled.

Three quarters of Brits (77%) also say we need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude to people with mental illness, while 68% say seeing a mental health professional is a sign of strength, with women (74%) more likely than men (62%) to agree.

And Britain is second only to Sweden for acceptance of public officials who have experienced mental health issues, with just 12% saying anyone with a history of mental illness should be excluded from public office. By contrast, the same figure for Russia is 76%, making it the least tolerant country by this measure.

When it comes to attitudes to increased spending on mental health services, eight in ten Brits (80%) disagree that increased spending on mental health services is a waste of money.

The findings are based on a survey of more than 20,000 people across 29 countries, including over 1,000 in Britain, between 23 August – 6 September 2019.

Other findings include:

  • Globally, a quarter (25%) of 16-34-year-olds think about their mental health very often – the most of any age group. By contrast, just one in eight (12%) over-65s think about their own mental health very often.
  • Colombians (76%), Mexicans (73%) and Brazilians (73%) are most likely to say they think about their own mental wellbeing very or fairly often, while Russians (25%), South Koreans (37%) and Saudi Arabians (42%) are least likely to.
  • People in Japan (41%), Brazil (44%) and Peru (45%) are least likely to agree that mental illness is an illness like any other.
  • People in South Korea (31%) and Japan (47%) are least likely to agree that we need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude towards people with mental illness. By contrast, those in Latin American countries – Mexico (85%), Peru (85%), Chile (85%), Colombia (84%) and Argentina (84%) – are most likely to.
  • In all countries surveyed, a majority say mental and physical health are equally important.

Anna Quigley, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, said:

We know from our existing data that mental health is increasingly seen as one of the top public health concerns, and is now seen as a priority for healthcare funding. While Brits come out relatively well in terms of attitudes to mental health compared with other countries, the findings reinforce the fact that they want to see more being done to meet the challenges of an issue now very much in the public consciousness.

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said:

The British public overwhelmingly say that good mental health is just as important as good physical health – but they feel the NHS isn’t treating it that way. Nearly two-thirds think the health service prioritises physical health over mental. At a time when budgets for mental health services remain severely constrained, the NHS faces a real challenge in meeting rising demand for treatment and dealing with a shift in expectations as mental health becomes more of a mainstream concern.

Technical note

In total, 20,003 interviews were conducted between 23 August – 6 September 2019. The survey was conducted in 30 countries around the world, via the Ipsos Online Panel system in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Great Britain, USA, Malaysia, Colombia, Chile, Israel, Peru and Serbia.
Approximately 1000 individuals aged 16+ were surveyed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Spain and the USA. Approximately 500 individuals aged were surveyed the remaining countries.
Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be+-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

 

The author(s)

  • Anna Quigley Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • James Stannard Public Affairs

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