UK mental health charity warns cost of living pressures could trigger relapse for over a million people living with bipolar

Experts warn that the continued cost of living crisis is putting the health and lives of over a million people in the UK living with bipolar at risk.

According to a recent survey conducted by national mental health charity Bipolar UK, 39% of people living with bipolar (an estimated 390,000 people in the UK) reported money worries being a major factor in triggering a relapse.

CEO of Bipolar UK, Simon Kitchen, said: “As we enter the third year of the cost of living crisis, a recent Natwest survey revealed that 84% of people believe this January is the toughest yet when it comes to their finances.

A drop in retail sales last December by 3.2% also shows that families across the UK are tightening their spending due to widespread money worries.

“This is putting more pressure on the millions of people in the UK living with or affected by bipolar – and it all increases the risk of relapse.”

A relapse for someone with bipolar means their episodes of depression or hypomania have returned.  

illustration of man pushing shopping trolley along an upward arrow line depicting inflation

According to Bipolar UK, the only national charity dedicated to empowering individuals and families affected by bipolar, research from the bipolar community identified that just under half of respondents had some form of debt; and one in five reported ‘out of control’ debt.

People with bipolar are also likely to earn substantially less each year than the national average. The most common level of income reported by those living with bipolar was between £10,000 and £20,000 per year, compared to the average income in the UK in 2023 of £35,000.

With one quarter of the charity’s survey respondents listing ‘welfare benefits’ as their main source of income, despite an above-average proportion of them having been to college or university, it is clear that access to appropriate treatment and support is more vital than ever.

“Lower than average incomes combined with the sustained issues around the cost of living are causing serious problems for the bipolar community,” added Bipolar UK CEO, Simon Kitchen.

“Overspending during a hypomanic or manic episode is also a common symptom and people with bipolar tell us they often buy things they don’t want or need, and later regret.

“The ongoing stress of accumulated debt then exacerbates likelihood of another episode.”

Bipolar UK provides free resources for those living with the condition, including a call-back and email Peer Support Line, in-person Peer Support Groups across the country and an eCommunity, as well as tips for people with bipolar to stay well during the current cost-of-living crisis.  

Simon added: “It’s estimated that at least half a million people are currently living with undiagnosed bipolar. With diagnosis time still taking on average 9.5 years, we want to equip people with the right tools and support so they can get a diagnosis and live well – and this includes helping them to manage any financial worries.

“Not everyone experiences bipolar in the same way. It is an extremely complex condition where people experience a range of emotions that are much more intense than the emotions someone without a mood disorder will experience.

“In a recent survey, 50% of people with a diagnosis of bipolar told us they had relapsed at least once. Avoiding triggers, as well as quickly managing symptoms, is essential when it comes to the self-management of bipolar.

“Stress can be a trigger, which is why getting on top of finances and minimising money worries is so crucial.”

To access Bipolar UK’s cost of living crisis advice, visit

Bipolar UK charity logo

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