Mental health crisis in the North costs the economy £2 billion

The effect of the pandemic on peoples' mental health was worse in the North than elsewhere in England, a report has found.

The study by Northern Health Science Alliance says the mental health crisis in the North cost the economy £2 billion.

The number of people prescribed anti-depressants was also up by 12%.

In response, the Government say it is giving £15 million of funding to help Level Up mental health and wellbeing in the most deprived areas.

The report shows that while mental health in England was hit badly over the course of the pandemic, those in the North had 'significantly worse' mental health outcomes.

Those under 35 in the North were more likely to have developed a psychiatric disorder over the course of the pandemic, an increase of 2.5%, compared to a reduction of 1.3% in rest of England.

There was also an increase in the numbers of anti-depressants prescribed during the pandemic in the North, higher than the rest of England.

Before the pandemic, those from ethnic minorities and those from a white British background had similar mental health scores.

But, during the pandemic, those from ethnic minorities had a larger fall in their average mental health, with the North much greater than anywhere else.

Women from ethnic minorities in the North had the worst mental health in the country. Their mental health scores fell by 10% at the start of the pandemic, and were 4% lower throughout the pandemic.

Report co-author Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said: "These findings reiterate that the pandemic has been very unequal. People in our most deprived communities have suffered most, in terms of death rates, dying younger and in on going ill-health such as long covid.

"These health inequalities reflect long-term inequalities in the social determinants of health, how we live, work and age."

Dr Luke Munford, Senior Lecturer in Health Economics at the University of Manchester and NIHR ARC Greater Manchester, who also co-authored the report, said: "Our mental health is important for us as individuals but is also important to our society.

"We have shown, again, that the pandemic was not equal - people in the North of England fared worse. We need to act urgently to address this or these unfair inequalities will grow and as already hard hit individuals and us as a society will unfairly suffer."

The report urges more to be done to address inequalities in mental health in the North, if 'levelling up' is to be achieved.

Among its key recommendations, the report's authors are calling for an increase in NHS and local authority resources and service provision for mental health in the North, along with an increase to the existing NHS health inequalities weighting within the NHS funding formula.

Hannah Davies, Health Inequalities Lead at the NHSA and report co-author, said: "Increased deprivation in the North of England has added to a decline in mental health in the North of England over the course of the pandemic.

"The reasons for this are many: increased time spent in lockdowns, the type of work people in the North do but the driving factor is poverty.

"To reverse these outcomes immediate action should be taken to provide funds to mental health suppliers proportionate to the need in those areas and measure to reduce deprivation - particularly as the cost of living crisis tightens its grip further on the most vulnerable."