People’s income is not keeping pace with rising costs, in particular, the costs of energy, fuel, homes, and food. The cost of living crisis is a health crisis.
Health inequalities have been widening for over a decade, with stalling life expectancy and people living fewer years in good health. However the cost of living crisis is making things worse because of its impact on the building blocks of health - our income, homes and access to food. Rising prices mean that people on the lowest incomes are paying even more for their essentials, or they’re having to cut back
The cost of renting privately in the UK has risen by almost 17% since 2015 and over half of people on the 20% lowest incomes spend more than 40% of their income on rent. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Understanding Poverty report found that over eight million social and private renters are in poverty and over half of private renters were pulled into poverty by their housing costs. Find out more about the impact of homes on health.
The cost of living crisis means more and more people are unable to afford to buy enough food. Food bank use was on the rise before the crisis and is increasing. In 2022 food banks reported increasing demand while donations fell, and healthy food continues to be more expensive than unhealthy food. Find out more about how food security affects health.
The crisis is also increasing fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is when a household can’t heat their home to an adequate temperature due to low income or high fuel prices. Poor quality homes also make it worse. Fuel poverty is intimately linked to poor health.
The cost of living crisis is also pushing more people into debt. Both debt and low income cause stress, depression and anxiety, all of which have a huge impact on our health. Research has shown that almost one in two adults struggling with debt has a mental health problem. People who are forced to pay their basic living costs by increasing their debts are also the people whose health is most affected by their financial situation – they are more likely to have a disability, or have an anxiety or panic disorder, for example.
Stating the facts
The Resolution Foundation’s annual living standards outlook found that real income fell by £800 per household in 2022, marking the biggest annual fall in one hundred years.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that in November 2022, over 4.3 million low-income households were not able to afford day-to-day essentials while also being behind on bills like energy or rent.
The poorest 20 per cent of families spend over forty per cent of their income on essentials (food, housing, fuel and power).
Our work on the cost of living crisis
As a funder, People’s Health Trust is responding to the crisis by offering more flexibility on our grants, for example, if a project needs to adapt its grant to provide more direct support. For new grants, we are considering how projects are responding to the cost of living crisis and/or supporting mental health, alongside our other criteria.
We are listening to the experiences of our funded partners in communities experiencing disadvantage across Great Britain and sharing their stories and experiences. Through our networks, we are bringing funded partners together to share experiences and inform our future policy and practice. We are currently holding regional network events on the cost of living crisis.
Contact us to find out more about our work on the cost of living.
Energy prices, food prices and travel costs are main topics of conversation now. Because of the cost of everything, a lot of people are not living, they’re existing.
Project member, Moving On Inverclyde
The research on the cost of living crisis and health
The Living Standards Outlook 2023, Report by The Resolution Foundation, 2023.
Cost of living crisis in Wales: A public health lens, A report from Public Health Wales, 2022.
The cost of living crisis is a health emergency too, Blog from The Health Foundation, 2022.