North West mental health survey ‘makes case for prevention’

Primary care trusts in the North West are being urged to shift resources into promoting good mental health after a comprehensive survey showed stark differences in mental well-being.

People living in the most deprived areas, white adults and 40- to 54-year-olds were most likely to have the lowest level of well-being in the survey of 18,500 people.

The North West Mental Wellbeing Survey found that just over 20% of the population in the North West had high mental well-being, more than 60% had moderate well-being and nearly 17% had low mental well-being.

Greater isolation, money worries, lower levels of physical exercise and poorer health were factors common to those at the bottom end of the scale.

The report was collated through a series of face-to-face interviews in every primary care trust area in the North West between April and June last year.

Among the areas investigated were age, educational attainment, relationships, employment and lifestyle.

The study was co-ordinated by a partnership of bodies, including regional strategic health authority NHS North West and the Department of Health.

The SHA’s regional director of public health, Dr Ruth Hussey wrote in the foreword to the report: “This groundbreaking research has filled a gap in helping us to understand the differences in well-being across our population and and the different factors that influence it.”

It will be used to inform local needs assessments and commissioning priorities.

The report said spending on improving mental well-being “has been extremely low” and its findings would support a shift in PCT funding towards more preventive interventions.

This mirrors the policy agenda set down by New Horizons, the government’s 10-year strategy for mental health – which centres on preventing mental ill-health through areas including improved access to employment and education.

The report recommended: “In order to achieve sustained improvements in population well-being, there needs to be sustained investment in effective interventions that impact on mental well-being.”

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