Press release

Importance of mental wellbeing highlighted

Significant changes in key factors influencing wellbeing according to PHE North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012 to 2013 published today.

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A Public Health England (PHE) report published today (28 November 2013) on mental wellbeing in the North West has found that while there has been an increase in people within the region reporting to be in ‘very good’ health (increase of 18.2%), and more people with greater life satisfaction (increase of 10.5%), people with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average.

The first ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey’ published in 2009 showed that people with good mental wellbeing have higher life satisfaction and are much more likely to be in employment, be educated, be healthy and have closer relationships with others.

The follow up report published today has revealed that while there has been little change in average mental wellbeing across the North West between 2009 and 2012 to 2013, there have been significant changes in some of the key factors that influence wellbeing.

Key findings from the ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13’ include:

Health

  • significant increase (+18.2%) in the number of people reporting to be in ‘very good’ health
  • fewer people reported being current smokers (29.8% in 2009 and 27.7% in 2012 to 2013)
  • a fall in the number of people meeting current guidelines for physical activity (30.4% in 2009 and 27.1% in 2012 to 2013)
  • people with long-term conditions had a significantly lower level of mental wellbeing than average. Conditions most strongly associated with lower mental wellbeing include depression, anxiety and stress, liver disease and stroke

Neighbourhood and social connections

  • the number of people who talk to their neighbours ‘on most days’ has fallen from 51.9% to 33.6%; the number of people who ‘never’ talk to their neighbours has risen from 2.6% to 4.7%; and the number of people who meet with friends and family (that they are not living with) ‘on most days’ has fallen from 53.9% to 41.2%
  • there was a 12.7% fall in the number of people who felt ‘very strongly’ that they belonged to their immediate neighbourhood

Activities

  • people who had undertaken voluntary work in the past year (14.3%) had significantly higher mental wellbeing compared to those who did not
  • there was a 9.1% fall in the number of people who ‘definitely agreed’ they have time to do the things they really enjoy

Across both survey years, relatively low levels of mental wellbeing were more likely to be found among people living in the most deprived areas and among those aged 40 to 54 years.

Professor Paul Johnstone, Regional Director of PHE, North, said:

This survey is a crucial piece of work in helping us understand the significance of mental wellbeing to our physical health and our overall wellbeing. It is clear that we shouldn’t treat these issues separately but do more to address whole-person approaches in all our services.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE’s Director of Health and Wellbeing said:

Having good mental wellbeing underpins all aspects of living healthily, managing and recovering from illness and living with long-term conditions.

Maintaining good relationships with the people around us and a sense of belonging to where we live are hugely important factors for our physical and mental health. A worrying finding from the survey is that people feel both of these are declining. The public health system needs to continue to understand the factors contributing to the mental wellbeing of our communities and commission services that address mental as well as physical wellbeing.

The survey findings will be used by local authorities and their partners across the North West to support local action to improve mental wellbeing. They will also be used alongside the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, to increase awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in improving people’s lives.

Background

  1. Read the ‘North West Mental Wellbeing Survey 2012/13’ report. Copies of the 2009 survey and related reports are also available.
  2. Face-to-face interviews of 11,500 people across the North West were conducted between September 2012 and March 2013. In total, 54 questions were asked on feelings, relationships, life satisfaction, social capital and networks, general health, lifestyles, life events, finance and demographic information, including employment and education.
  3. The survey used the short Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS). This scale is made up of seven items that cover two dimensions of mental wellbeing - how people feel (pleasure) and being able to function positively. It differentiates well between high and low levels of wellbeing so researchers can understand more about resilience and the attributes of good mental wellbeing.
  4. The new economics foundation developed the Five Ways to Wellbeing, a set of five evidence-based actions which can improve wellbeing in everyday life. These actions are Connect; Be active; Take notice; Keep learning and Give.
  5. Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

North West centre PHE press office

Published 28 November 2013