Statistics about key mental health problems

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 Mental Health Foundation, every year in the UK 70 million workdays are lost due to mental illness, including anxiety, depression and stress related conditions. This means mental illness is the leading cause of sickness and absence from work.

Looking after yourself and ensuring you have good mental health has many benefits - not just for you as an individual, but for the business too. Employees are generally more productive, passionate and motivated when in good health. Even if they’re experiencing mental health problems, knowing they are supported by their employer can help in the recovery process.

- Learn more about workplace wellbeing.

On this page we look at some of the key mental health problems in the UK.

man sitting in park alone

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; in 2013 there were 8.2 million cases recorded in the UK alone.1

Interestingly, studies show that it is more commonly seen in women. In England, women are almost 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:

Agoraphobia - 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 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 NHS say:

1 in 10 of us are affected by depression at some point in our lives.

About 4% of children aged 5-16 in the UK are depressed or anxious.

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 up to 10 times more people suffering from the condition now than in 1945.4 As well as clinical depression, there are other forms, including:

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, mindfulness and interpersonal therapy are all 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 Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence estimates around 11% of those affected by an eating disorder are male.

Beat also note 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 diagnosis personality disorders has been difficult. A 2006 UK study 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.

According to, it is estimated that up to three in 100 people will develop the mental illness at some point in their life. It is also much more common in certain groups of people. have the following statistics about who may develop PTSD:

  • one in two female rape victims
  • one in five firefighters
  • one in three teenage survivors of car accidents
  • two in three prisoners of war

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).

The process of eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) can alter the way traumatic memories are stored within the brain - making them easier to manage.

- 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 say it affects around one in every 100 people during their lifetime. They also note the genetic link, with the following statistics:

Relatives with schizophrenia Chance of developing schizophrenia
0 1 in 100
1 parent 1 in 10
1 identical twin 1 in 2
1 non-identical twin 1 in 8

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.


  • 1 Mental Health Foundation: Mental Health Statistics: Anxiety.
  • 2 Martin-Merino, E., Ruigomez, A., Wallander, M., Johansson, S. and GarciaRodriguez, L. (2009). Family Practice, 27(1), pp.9-16.
  • 3 OCD UK: How common is OCD? ttp://
  • 4 Seligman, M. E. P. In J. Buie (1988) 'Me' decades generate depression: individualism erodes commitment to others. APA Monitor, 19, 18.
  • 5 Coid, J., Yang, M., Tyrer, P., Roberts, A. & Ullrich, S. (2006). Prevalence and correlates of personality disorder in Great Britain. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 188 (5), 423-431. 

Page last reviewed September 2018.

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