Key statistics about mental health problems

Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Counselling Directory Content Team

Last updated 28th November 2022 | Next update due 27th November 2025

Just like physical health, we all have mental health. The term itself covers a broad range of emotional and psychological concerns that affect millions of people every day.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 17.5 million working days are lost due to mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and stress-related conditions. Mental illness is a leading cause of sickness and absence from work, so it's vital we understand more about it.

On this page, we look at some of the key mental health problems in the UK and what can help.

Anxiety and related disorders

Anxiety is a normal feeling we all experience from time to time; it is a sense of unease, worry and fear. For some, however, this feeling is very strong or may last for a long time, making it overwhelming. In these cases, a mental illness can develop.

Anxiety is considered one of the most common mental health problems in the western world, with as many as eight million people having a type of anxiety disorder at any one time in the UK.1

Interestingly, studies show that it is more commonly seen in women. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men.2 Whether or not this is down to biology or the fact that women are more likely to seek help is yet to be determined.

Depending on your symptoms and the problems you come up against, you may be diagnosed with a specific anxiety disorder. These include:


This is an anxiety disorder that causes intense fear surrounding certain situations, such as being in public spaces, leaving your home, being in large crowds and using public transport.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

If you have this disorder you will be very worried about the way you look, or about a certain part of your body. Other people will not notice a problem, but it will make you feel distressed.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

A common mental illness, the NHS estimates that GAD affects up to 5% of the UK population. The disorder causes sufferers to feel anxious a lot of the time, often without a specific cause.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

This causes the sufferer to have obsessional thoughts and compulsions to carry out certain actions. It is estimated that 12 out of every 1000 people have OCD.3

Panic disorder 

Causing sufferers to have panic attacks, this disorder can be deliberating. Most panic attacks last between five and 20 minutes and cause physical symptoms which, while not damaging to health, can be very frightening.

What can help?

If anxiety is affecting your day-to-day life, you may benefit from professional support. There are various treatments to help with anxiety; those most often recommended are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.


Alongside anxiety, depression is a common mental health problem people live with. The charity Mind says:

Three in 100people will be living with depression in any given week.

Only one in eightpeople are recieving treatment for a mental health problem.

Clinical depression (also known as major depression) occurs when the symptoms interfere with daily life. This is a serious condition and in extreme cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Depression is a growing problem, with cases up to five times higher between 2005 - 2015.4 As well as clinical depression, there are other forms, including:

  • postnatal depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • seasonal affective disorder

What can help?

There are various options to help treat depression, from physical activity and online courses to psychological treatments and medication. Talk therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness are recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Eating disorders

An eating disorder is a mental health problem that causes the sufferer to form an unhealthy relationship with food and eating habits. Examples of common eating disorders include:

  • anorexia
  • bulimia
  • binge eating disorder

Eating disorder charity Beat estimates that around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. The National Eating Disorders Association estimates around one in three of those affected by an eating disorder are male.

Beat also notes statistics about recovery, with research suggesting that 46% of anorexia sufferers and 45% of bulimia sufferers fully recover.

What can help?

Depending on the nature of your eating disorder, various psychological treatments may be recommended. NICE advise cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive analytic therapy, interpersonal therapy and/or family interventions.

Personality disorders

In the realm of mental health, the term 'personality' is used to describe the collection of traits we develop as we grow up, making each of us unique. For some people, parts of their personality develop differently and in a way that can make living with themselves and/or other people difficult. When this happens, it is typically called a personality disorder.

Over the years, defining and diagnosing personality disorders has been difficult. The Mental Health Foundation, however, suggests that around one in 20 people have a personality disorder.5

What can help?

While different people will respond to different forms of treatment, the NHS recommend cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy and/or psychodynamic (reflective) psychotherapy for those with personality disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

At any point in our lives, we may experience what is called a 'traumatic event'. This is an event that is frightening, overwhelming and out of our control. Understandably, this has a profound effect on the victim - leaving them feeling anxious and stressed.

These feelings tend to go away after a number of days or weeks, but in some cases, they don't. When this happens, it can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD develops following a traumatic event that is experienced or witnessed. Examples include:

  • sexual assault 
  • serious accidents 
  • abuse
  • serious health problems

Generally, PTSD is more likely to develop if the event is sudden or unexpected, goes on for a long time or causes many deaths, to offer some examples. It's also more likely to occur in people with certain jobs, such as emergency service workers, support workers, intensive care staff and those in the military. 

What can help?

Regardless of when the traumatic event took place, treatment can still be helpful. NICE support the use of psychological treatment, especially trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).

EMDR therapy looks to help you properly process these traumatic memories, reducing their impact and helping you develop healthy coping mechanisms.

- Learn more about EMDR.


Schizophrenia is a condition that affects the way you think, feel and behave, making it difficult to decipher reality from fantasy. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says it affects around one in every 100 people during their lifetime. They also note the genetic link, with the following statistics:

  • one in 10 people will develop schizophrenia if one parent has it.
  • one in two people will develop it if their identical twin has schizophrenia.
  • one in eight people will get schizophrenia if their non-identical twin has it.

What can help?

For many people with schizophrenia, it is a condition they live with throughout their lives. Symptoms can however be managed with a combination of medication and psychological treatment. Recommended therapies for those with schizophrenia are cognitive behavioural therapy, art therapy and/or family therapy.

If you are struggling with a mental health problem and you'd like to work with a counsellor or therapist, reach out to a qualified professional on the Counselling Directory to find out more.


    • 1 Mental Health UK: What is anxiety? [online] Available at:
    • 2 Mental Health Foundation: Men and women: Statistics [online] Available at:
    • 3 OCD UK: How common is OCD? [online] Available at: ttp://
    • 4 The Guardian, 'What is depression and why is it rising?' (2018) [online] Available at:
    • 5 Mental Health Foundation: Personality Disorders (2022) [online] Available at:
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