Public perceptions of the effectiveness of income provision on reducing psychological distress

Emma Bridger*, Daniel Nettle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand public perceptions of the role of income for improving mental health, since public perceptions shape political decision-making. Socioeconomic determinants such as poverty cause a great deal of mental ill-health, yet it is not clear whether the general public believes this to be true. Lay understandings of health often overemphasize the roles of individual habits and medical treatments and underappreciate the importance of socioeconomic determinants. 

Design/methodology/approach: UK adults (n = 622) rated effectiveness of three interventions for reducing psychological distress: medication, psychotherapy, and providing sufficient income to cover necessities via a basic income. We manipulated whether participants rated effectiveness for an identified individual vs. the population in general. Participants also indicated their support for the introduction of the basic income scheme. 

Findings: Increasing income was rated highly effective for reducing psychological distress. Effectiveness ratings for income provision were as high as those for psychotherapy, and higher than those for medication. There was also an interaction with framing: in the population framing, income provision was rated more effective than either of the other two interventions. There were high levels of support for introducing a universal basic income scheme in this population. 

Originality/value: UK adults anticipate that income provision would be highly effective at reducing psychological distress, as or more effective than increasing access to psychotherapy or medication. Policymakers can assume that the public will be receptive to arguments for mental health interventions that tackle broader socioeconomic determinants, especially when these are framed in population terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-217
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Mental Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

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