CW: This content mentions mental health issues such as, depression and anxiety.
Mental health in the UK
The key discourses surrounding mental health is that it is individual in nature; everyone faces unique challenges and unique solutions to improve their mental well-being.
This of course is true! However, there is much data to suggest that where you live plays a crucial role in your mental well-being. Statistics from the NHS GP Patient Survey (2022) show that the prevalence of individuals facing mental health issues in the UK, are predominantly from northern regions. 15.6% of adults reported a mental health problem in North East and North Cumbria, with the lowest reporting in North West London at 9.1%. This divide follows similar trends within other northern and southern regions.
This report also makes the claim that the highest prevalence of individuals with depressive symptomology are among the category of the economically inactive and those from lower income backgrounds. This shows the potential for a correlation between socio-economic status and mental health problems. Lower incomes can cause a plethora of challenges for individuals which often result in a lower quality of living, as well as an increase of stress and anxiety. Lower income can also prevent the access to adequate mental healthcare. Economic opportunity does not only allow for a better financial situation; economic opportunity allows for diversity in career paths which can promote feelings of fulfillment and pleasure through the freedom of choosing the employment sector which best suits you.
So how does region play a role in this? Your region can play a vital role in the economic activities you are able to pursue.
The area you live in the UK can significantly impact which industries you aim to work in, there are many more opportunities to work in a diverse range of sectors in the South of England. This provides individuals with the potential to gain more work experience, as well as more long-term employment. Work experience such as internships, can help people gain the practical skills they need to access the employment they want. In contrast, areas of low economic opportunity often lead to more competition which causes an increased difficulty for individuals to gain opportunities into their chosen sector.
I recall looking for an internship during my first and second year of university and I was surprised at the influx of opportunities being available only to those who could either live in London or could commute daily to London. With the rising cost of transportation, it was almost impossible for me to be able to pursue these unpaid opportunities. This led me to have to work harder to find these minimum opportunities in the North of England which were typically more competitive as a result.
Is there a catch 22?
The barriers to accessing more and improved economic opportunities often depend on the financial status of the individual. Can you afford the public or private transportation costs? Can you afford to move to areas of economic opportunity? Do you have the time to commute to long distance areas?
It is far too often that the socio-economic status of an individual prohibits them from improving their status. There is a myriad of factors which can prevent and deter individual economic growth. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom! There is a rising number of organisations committed in improving this trap. One programme I have found particularly useful is the UpReach Social Mobility Organisation. This organisation aims to reduce the barriers that many individuals from lower income backgrounds face when trying to improve their economic circumstances. The access to remote style internships and UpReach’s exclusive opportunities have been a primary pathway I have utilized in improving my skills.