MQ: Transforming Mental HealthUK mental health research has a history of under-investment, including ‘virtually non-existent’ charitable funding, according to new analysis.

The analysis by charity: MQ: Transforming Mental Health in its report ‘UK Mental Health Research Funding: MQ Landscape Analysis’ found this has contributed to overall levels of research that fail to meet the scale or impact of mental illness. MQ’s analysis is the most comprehensive overview of UK mental health research funding ever produced, combining a major new six-year funding analysis with the most current existing data.

In particular the analysis found:

For every £1 spent by the government on mental health research, the general public gives just 0.3p. The equivalent general public donation for cancer is £2.75

£9.75 is invested in research per person affected by mental illness – over 100 times less than the amount spent on cancer research per patient (£1,571)

Most mental health conditions have even lower investment figures, including autism (£3.98 per person affected), depression (£1.55), and obsessive compulsive disorder (89p). For anxiety and eating disorder research, less than 21p is spent per person affected.

Call for more research funding

The UK spends an average £115 million a year on mental health research – 85% of which is from just three funders: the Wellcome Trust; the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council.

MQ’s report calls for sustained efforts to grow levels of mental health research funding in the UK and improved data and knowledge sharing. MQ will be producing the report on an annual basis, to ensure continued monitoring and record progress. 

“As our analysis shows, current levels of research are not fit-for-purpose,” MQ’s chief executive, Cynthia Joyce, said. “This means that advances are being held back in areas that could make a real difference to people’s lives, including the development of new treatments and opportunities to prevent mental illness in future generations.

“We are beginning to see important changes in our public dialogue about mental health, but any efforts to truly achieve ‘parity of esteem’ will be held back without similar commitments to mental health research.”

MQ senior advisor professor Roz Shafran, chair of Translational Psychology at University College London added: “This ground-breaking report highlights the scandal of underinvestment in mental health research in general and psychological treatment in particular. Highlighting the gap between the paucity of research funding and enormous impact of mental health disorders is the first step in beginning to close it.”

To download the full report, click here.