Comfort spending, impulse buys and lavish gifts: 6 ways mental health can get you into debt

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has discovered that mental health and money problems go hand in hand

Hazel Sheffield
Monday 18 July 2016 16:18 BST
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Someone suffering from depression may be less able to keep up with bills or face up to money issues
Someone suffering from depression may be less able to keep up with bills or face up to money issues (PA)

People suffering from mental health issues almost always find that their ability to look after money properly is affected in some way, according to one of the largest studies ever done on the subject.

Some 93 per cent of people with mental health problems said that they spend more when they are unwell, according to the survey of over 5,000 people who self-identified has having a mental health problem.

Of those surveyed, 88 per cent said they were behind in paying bills.

In a smaller survey put together to identify the worst triggers for spending, half the respondents said they had paid for purchases on instalment schemes in the last 12 months.

For Martin Lewis, the founder of Money Saving Expert, that last statistic is proof that there are ways to protect people whose mental health issues make them more vulnerable to money trouble.

Since Lewis sold Money Saving Expert, he’s created a charity to look into ways that banks and retailers can change the way they sell to people with money problems to try and stop them from getting into financial trouble.

As part of their research, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has discovered that mental health and money problems go hand in hand.

Someone suffering from depression may be less able to keep up with bills or face up to money issues.

Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert, is behind the policy institute
Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert, is behind the policy institute (Getty Images)

Equally, someone in a lot of debt might find the stress a trigger for anxiety or other mental health problems.

The Institute has found six major ways mental health affects spending:

1. Manic spending during a high or period of mania

2. Nihilistic spending where the transaction, or life itself, is considered meaningless

3. Comfort spending to boost low mood

4. Social value spending to boost status or self-worth by giving money or gifts to others

5. Impulsive spending where we can’t attribute any purpose to the transaction

6. Addictive spending to feed an addiction, like alcohol or gambling

The findings show that even though it has never been easier to get access to credit, people with mental health conditions need restrictions and other mechanisms to help them control their impulses, Lewis said.

“We’ve already looked at mechanisms for self-restricting access to future credit,” he said.

“Now we’re adding potential spending controls too such as a 24-hour window to review high-cost purchases, setting daily spending limits, or being able to involve a trusted friend in managing your finances.”

The Institute has opened a consultation to gather more information. People working in financial services and mental health are invited to participate.

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