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Four million children in the UK are living with a parent with poor mental health

We have a growing mental health crisis in the UK. One in six of all adults in England have a common mental disorder, up from around one in seven in the early 1990s.[1] The added stresses and pressure of looking after children can make parents particularly susceptible to these challenges. In 2018-2019 nearly one in three children were found to have a parent with poor mental health and this has been rising over time.[2] This means that of the 12.7 million children aged under 18 in the UK, more than 4 million of them have a parent that is struggling with their mental health – this is more than the populations of Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds combined.[3]

And these challenges have only been worsened by the pandemic. Studies have shown that not only were levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms higher for households with children throughout the pandemic but that worries about health, finances and home schooling made this situation worse during lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021.[4] The impacts have been particularly acute for women who were disproportionately impacted by additional childcare responsibilities during the pandemic.[5]

Unfortunately, the lifting of restrictions doesn’t appear to have reversed all of the negative impacts experienced during the pandemic. Latest wellbeing data for September 2021 suggested that general levels of life satisfaction and anxiety for adults in the UK had started to return towards pre-pandemic levels but that recovery is not a total one.[6] The longer-term consequences of these effects are currently unknown but are only likely to exacerbate already challenging circumstances.

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[1] McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016): Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital

[2] Public Heath England (2021): Statistical commentary: children living with parents in emotional distress, March 2021 update, available here: with details of definitions used available in: 

[3] Office of National Statistics (2022a): Population estimates - small area based by single year of age - England and Wales, Nomis.

[4] Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (2021): Parents and carers Spotlight, accessed here:

[5] Office of National Statistics (2022b): Personal well-being in the UK, quarterly; April 2011 to September 2021, accessed here:

[6] Office of National Statistics (2022b)