Researchers from the University of Southampton, along with a researcher from Kingston University, carried out a systematic review on all previous research which looked at the relationship between health problems and unsecured debt.
They conducted a 'meta-analysis', the first time this has been done on the issue, to statistically combine the results of previous studies involving nearly 34,000 participants.
Less than nine per cent of participants with no mental health problems were in debt, compared to more than a quarter of participants being in debt and with a mental health problem.
The team found that those in debt were also more likely to suffer from depression, drug dependence and psychosis and the results also suggested that those who die by suicide are more likely to be in debt.
Dr Thomas Richardson, Clinical Psychologist from the University of Southampton who led the research, said that the research showed a strong relationship between debt and mental health; however it is hard to say which causes which at this stage. It might be that debt leads to worse mental health due to the stress it causes. It may also be that those with mental health problems are more prone to debt because of other factors, such as erratic employment. Equally it might be that the relationship works both ways.
The study is published online in Clinical Psychology Review.