This page is a summary of the full briefing paper, which you can download by clicking the button above. 

How common are mental health conditions?

The 2014 survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England found that 1 in 6 people aged 16+ had experienced symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, in the past week. Women were more likely than men to be experiencing common mental disorders. Prevalence has increased since 1993.

2% of survey respondents had ever experienced bipolar disorder, while 0.7% had experienced psychotic disorder in the past year. 4.4% of respondents screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder. Just over 5% of survey respondents reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past year. 

The most recent survey was in 2014. A new survey is due soon.

Two bar charts showing the prevalence of common mental disorders. The left bar chart shows a breakdown by age and sex, showing that prevalence is higher among women than men in all age groups, and also that overall prevalence is higher among those aged 16-64 than in older age groups. The right bar chart shows increases since 1993 broken down by sex.

Source: NHS Digital, Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014

Children’s mental health

2023 survey of children and young people’s mental health found that 20% of children aged 8 to 16 had a probable mental disorder in 2023, up from 12% in 2017. Among those aged 17 to 19, 10% had a probable mental disorder in 2017, rising to 23% in 2023. 

Depression during the coronavirus pandemic

Monitoring from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the prevalence of moderate or severe depressive symptoms among adults in Great Britain rose after the start of the pandemic.

In surveys taken between July 2019 and March 2020 prevalence was 10%, but this rose to 19% by June 2020 and 21% by January to March 2021. By September to October 2022 the proportion had fallen to 16%.

Depression and the cost of living

The ONS has monitored relationships between the prevalence of depression and the rising cost of living.

Its data shows that rates of depression were higher among those who found it hard to afford housing costs or energy bills, and higher among renters than homeowners.

The ONS notes that these relationships may not reflect causation.

NHS talking therapies for depression and anxiety (TTAD, formerly IAPT)

The NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression programme (TTAD), formerly “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” (IAPT), was launched in 2008 to improve the quality and accessibility of mental health services in England. TTAD focuses on therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and self-help support – collectively known as ‘talking therapies’ – for working-age people experiencing common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. People can be referred to TTAD by their GP, or they can self-refer.

In 2022/23, 1.76 million people in England were referred to TTAD, 1.22 million entered treatment, and 672,000 finished a course of treatment. 

66.5% of those referred to TTAD in 2022/23 were women, and the number of women referred outnumbered men in every local area of England.

Waiting times for talking therapies

89.3% of those finishing a course of TTAD treatment in 2022/23 waited less than 6 weeks for their first treatment, which is above the target of 75% but slightly lower than the figure for 2021/22 (91.1%). However, average waiting times for first treatment varied substantially across England, from a low of 4 days in Gloucestershire to a high of 79 days in Southport and Formby.

The average waiting time for a first treatment in England was 21.7 days, while the average waiting time between first and second treatment was 62.5 days (up 12.5 days from 2021/22). 

Two maps showing waiting times for psychological therapy in England. The first map shows the waiting time between referral and first treatment. The second map shows the waiting time between first treatment and second treatment. The data for each area can be accessed in the downloadable spreadsheet at the top of this page.

Source: NHS Digital, NHS Talking Therapies, for anxiety and depression, Annual reports, 2022-23. Data for all areas can be found in the downloadable data tables accompanying this publication (link at the top of the page).

Talking therapy outcomes

49.9% of those finishing a course of TTAD treatment moved to recovery (meaning that they were no longer classed as having a clinical case of a mental health problem), just under the target of 50%. In 2022/23, recovery rates varied from 57% in West Sussex to 32% in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire.

Recovery and improvement rates varied between social groups, with some minority groups less likely to see positive outcomes:

  • People living in more deprived areas were less likely to experience improvement or recovery after TTAD than those living in less deprived areas
  • People with disabilites were less likely to experience improvement or recovery than those without disabilities
  • People identifying as bisexual were less likely to experience improvement after TTAD than people identifying as straight
  • People in Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Mixed and Other Ethnic Groups were less likely to experience improvement and recovery after TTAD than those identifying as White British, Indian, African or Caribbean.

NHS secondary mental health services

NHS Digital’s Mental Health Bulletin contains statistics on people in contact with NHS-funded secondary mental health, learning disability and autism services.

It’s estimated that 3.58 million people were in contact with these services at some point during 2022/23. This is just over 6% of the population, varying from 16.7% of 11 to 15 year olds and 14.6% of 16 to 19 year olds to 3.2% of 65 to 69 year olds.

Access to and contact with mental health services varies across the country. The highest was Hull, where 10.8% of the adult population were in contact with mental health services during 2022/23. The lowest was Mid Essex (3.6%).

The maps below show the percentage of people accessing services in 2022/23 by NHS area.

Maps showing the percentage of adults and children in contact with mental health services in England in 2022/23. The data is available in the downloadable spreadsheet at the top of this page.

Source: NHS Digital, Mental Health Bulletin 2022/23. Data for all areas can be found in the downloadable data tables accompanying this publication (link at the top of the page).

Most of these mental health services do not have waiting time targets (unlike TTAD), meaning that data is not available on how long people wait to access them. Some waiting time data for community mental health services was made available for the first time in 2023, showing a median waiting time of 45 days and a 90th percentile waiting time of 251 days.

The NHS is proposing new access and waiting time standards for a range of mental health services.

Funding for mental health services

Most local mental health funding is not ring-fenced, meaning that each local NHS area determines its own mental health budget from its overall funding allocation. This means that neither the Government nor NHS England determines exactly how much funding goes to mental health services in local areas.

Spending commitments from the NHS long-term plan also include a “new ring-fenced investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24”.

Measuring spending

NHS England’s Mental Health Dashboard provides a national and local overview of spending on mental health services.

In 2023/24, local NHS bodies (integrated care boards – ICBs) plan to spend £14.4 billion on mental health, learning disability and dementia services in England. This is 14.2% of the total funding allocated to ICBs for health services. NHS England plans to spend a further £2.4 billion on specialised commissioning for mental health services, for a total of £16.8 billion. This figure has risen from £12.0 billion in 2017/18.

While mental health spending is not ring-fenced, ICBs are expected to meet the ‘mental health investment standard’ (MHIS). This requires increases in local mental health spending to be at least as large, proportionally speaking, as overall increases in local funding. So, if a ICB receives a 5% increase in its funding allocation, it must increase its mental health spending by at least 5% to meet the MHIS.

The MHIS is expected to be met in 2023/24 but was not met in 2022/23.

The mental health investment standard only measures changes in spending and provides no assessment of whether spending is adequate relative to local needs and demand for services. 

Where to find data on mental health services in the UK

Because health is a devolved policy area, data is collected and published separately for each UK nation. The links below provide a selection of sources for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Because health is a devolved policy area, data is collected and published separately for each UK country.




Northern Ireland

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