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Brexit Uncertainty Affecting the Mental Health of People in Wales

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More than one third of people in Wales feel that Brexit has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to new research for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

BACP found that the mental health of 36 per cent of the population of Wales had been negatively affected by the decision to leave the European Union.

This is higher than the UK-wide average of 33 per cent. Only London (38 per cent) had a higher figure.

People living in the West Midlands (27 per cent) and the North East (28 per cent) were the least likely to have their mental health affected by Brexit.

The Public Perception Survey, which was conducted by YouGov, also showed large variations in how people’s mental health has been affected by Brexit along age groups, household incomes, social grades and even voting habits.

Andrew Kinder, BACP governor and senior accredited BACP counsellor, said:

“Most of us dislike change, because of the uncertainty it creates, and there is a lot of uncertainty around Brexit.

“There is uncertainty on whichever side people voted for, whether that is remain or leave.

“Uncertainty can be stressful for people, and it does impact on their wellbeing, and if people have underlying issues as well, this is fuelling it and adding to it.”

The BACP survey found that younger people are less likely to have had their mental health affected by the Brexit process than older people.

A total of 28 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds agreed that their wellbeing had been affected compared to 37 per cent of those aged 65 and above.

It was a similar picture along social grades, with 37 per cent of ABC1s saying that their mental health was worse off because of Brexit compared to 27 per cent of C2DE.

And there was also a wide variation in household incomes.

Homes with an income of under £15,000, and of between £15,000 and £30,000 were the least likely be affected, with 30 per cent and 31 per cent respectively reporting an impact on their mental health.

However, people were most likely to report their mental health had suffered due to Brexit in households with an income of £60,000 to £70,000 (41 per cent) and of £70,000 or more (39 per cent).

Labour voters are more than twice as likely to say their mental health has been affected by Brexit than Conservative voters.

The YouGov figures showed that 43 per cent of people who voted Labour in the 2017 General Election reported their mental wellbeing had been negatively impacted by Brexit, compared to 20 per cent who voted Conservative.

The figure is even higher for Lib Dem (47 per cent) and SNP voters (44 per cent). The figure was 23 per cent among UKIP voters.

BACP is the largest professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK, with 49,000 members.

Cate Campbell, accredited BACP member and a counsellor based in Buckinghamshire, said:

“I have seen many clients talking about it, and they have been since the day after the Referendum.

“There are people who have lost jobs, or whose jobs have gone abroad, and their opportunities have narrowed, and they are worrying about the effects on their families

“For people who voted to remain, they don’t feel that they know the world that they have grown up with.

“People who voted to leave, feel that what they voted for and hoped for was not being addressed. They feel let down.

Louise Tyler, a registered member of BACP and a counsellor based in Cheshire, said:

“I am seeing clients who are grappling with having to prepare for various Brexit scenarios in their jobs or across their business, resulting in stress and anxiety because of increased workload and working hours.

“Many people are worrying about the consequences of Brexit on their jobs and finances.

“Most of all people are struggling with a sense of uncertainty and a feeling of powerlessness, consequently they are feeling low, helpless and stressed.

“There is evidence to show that when people hear bad news they worry about more than the content of the story.

“Negative news coverage causes people to worry more about personal issues in their own lives too. The blanket coverage of Brexit is taxing people’s nervous systems, and if people are already vulnerable then the affects will be more far reaching.”

She added:

“For those who already suffer with anxiety, the uncertainty magnifies their symptoms. They generally view uncertainty as dangerous in any case, so their ‘fight or flight’ stress response tends to be in overdrive at present, with the attendant symptoms of panic, overwhelm, insomnia and irritability.”

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