News | Published February 29 2020

Lancet study finds link between universal credit and rise in mental health issues

A study in the Lancet Public Health Journal has noted "observational associations" between cases of depression and universal credit.

Between 2013 and 2018, when universal credit was introduced, the number of unemployed people suffering from some form of psychological distress increased by almost seven per cent.

In real terms, this is an additional 63,674 people in England, Wales and Scotland, with almost one third becoming clinically depressed in this time.

The study worked with over 52,000 people of working age, who took part in Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study between 2009 and 2018.

Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead, who co-authored the study, said that the dramatic increase in mental-health issues could have also been due to a range of changes to the welfare system.

The study also indicated that there were no clear links to the impact of universal credit on physical health.

The introduction of universal credit in 2013, a combination of six different benefits into one model, was hoped to make the system easier to use.

It had also been hoped that the system would encourage more people to work, however, the study found no evidence to suggest it had been successful in this.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said that: "People coming into the job centre are often doing so at a difficult time in their lives and there is a range of support available for those with mental-health conditions."

The government noted that there was no evidence of a casual link in the study.

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Authored by

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
February 29 2020

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