Tough economic conditions have contributed to a decline in mental health around the UK, according to new research from Mind.

The survey found that changes to benefit rules, poor housing conditions and unemployment are taking their toll on a growing number of communities, leading to rising demand for mental health support services.

More than nine out of ten chief executives of local Minds said that they had seen the mental health of people living in their local communities deteriorate over the past year – a claim supported by over three-quarters of the mental health social workers who responded.

Another 73 per cent of chief executives said they had noticed people seeking support services for the first time in their lives. Although many people access mental health services at all stages of life irrespective of their circumstances, the extent of the problem was illustrated when a fifth of social workers said they had found more people in crisis over the past 12 months than before.

“This survey again highlights what many social workers see as a deterioration in access to support for mental health problems, as reductions in social care and health bite,” says Dr Ruth Allen, chair of the mental health faculty at The College of Social Work.

“At the same time, social and financial pressures associated with poverty and poor housing seem to be mounting and are cited increasingly by social workers as reasons for mental distress and ill health.”

More than 90 per cent of Mind managers said the rise in people accessing mental health support services was at least partially down to benefit cuts ,changes to welfare rules and unemployment. Only slightly fewer said that poor housing is also playing a role.

Benefits are a particularly thorny issue for many claimants who are trying to adapt to the new system: three out of five social workers say it is now either difficult or very difficult to get advice and support regarding welfare.

Writing for International Business Times last week (March 6th), Mind head of workplace wellbeing Emma Mamo said that it is now vital the UK focuses on maintaining a healthy workforce so it is in a better position to capitalise on recovery through the likes of job creation, growth and higher productivity.

“A healthy national workforce is a key building block for growth,” she added.