Psychological Wellbeing and Work: Improving Service Provision and Outcomes for People With Mental Health Problems in the UK

stressed woman at work


Reducing mental ill-health in the UK is a significant policy challenge. Mental ill-health is prevalent in the working-age population and is associated with high economic and social costs. Mental health is now one of the leading reasons for people claiming sickness absence benefits. This number has increased over time while the general prevalence of mental health conditions in the UK population has remained more or less stable.

For these reasons, managing psychological health and wellbeing has become a policy priority. In particular, the Government aims to support those with mental health problems in work and encourage people with these conditions who are on benefits to take up employment, as this leads to lower societal and economic costs and to better subjective wellbeing for the individual.


The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health jointly commissioned RAND Europe to investigate these issues by reviewing existing evidence, consulting stakeholders and conducting an economic analysis. The project addressed the following central question:

What is the best approach to improve employment outcomes for people with common mental health problems (both diagnosed and undiagnosed)?

More specifically, RAND Europe looked into the best approaches to:

  • maintain people with mental health problems in work
  • get people with mental health problems into work.


  • We identified several challenges in current provision of public services for people with common mental health problems that aim to support them in employment. We found that services are often not joined up because they tackle either the mental health problem or the employment need as a discrete issue; and they are often delayed, even though the original problems can deteriorate over time.
  • The study developed a longlist of policy options for the Government to consider. These options include workplace interventions, influencing the behaviour of key gatekeepers, improving assessments of employment and wellbeing needs of people with common mental health problems, building up employment advice in current programmes, and more.
  • We concluded that the Government should pilot four shortlisted and complementary options that: provide early access to specialist services; address both employment and mental health needs; introduce more integration between current services; or propose new applications of existing evidence-based models. Testing these innovative approaches would contribute to building a much-needed evidence base on better ways to support people with common mental health problems.


Project Team

Christian van Stolk, project leader
Joanna Hofman
Emma Disley
Alex Pollitt
Barbara Janta
Marco Hafner
Jess Plumridge

RAND Europe was supported in this project by key partners:

  • Jan Hutchinson, the Centre for Mental Health
  • Professor Felicia Huppert, the Well-Being Institute at the University of Cambridge
  • Professor Stephen Bevan, the Work Foundation
  • John Mallalieu, Turning Point

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