A radiator with a window's silhouette cast above it

A new study highlights the declining rates of wellbeing and happiness in the UK, while the cost of living crisis increasingly affects the health of millions.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest Quality of Life report, there has been a decline in the overall quality of life in the UK over the past year. The report finds that people are less satisfied with their health and wellbeing than they were in previous years, with mental health concerns being a significant contributing factor.

The data shows that at the end of 2022, the number of adults reporting low life satisfaction was the second highest it has been since December 2013, behind only the Covid-19 pandemic period. The report also shows that the number of adults reporting very high levels of life satisfaction decreased to 23.3 per cent for the final three months of 2022, a drop of two per cent when compared to the same period the previous year. This is second lowest figure since records began.

Anxiety continues to rise as well, with only 33.8 percent of adults reporting low levels of anxiety in the final quarter of 2022 compared with over 40 per cent for the same period in 2017. The data shows a long term trend of decreasing mental health over the past decade. General satisfaction with health is falling too, with 44.7 per cent of adults reporting they were mostly or completely satisfied with their health in the latest figures from 2020-2021, compared with 51.4 per cent in 2015-2016.

The ONS report also highlights some areas of concern in specific age groups. For example, the study found that young people aged 16-24 were less satisfied with their lives than any other age group, while those aged 45-54 reported the highest levels of anxiety. The report also revealed that women continue to report lower levels of satisfaction with their health and wellbeing than men, with the gap widening in the past year.

These findings are supported by new research conducted by Citizens Advice which warns the cost of living crisis in the UK is far from over. The charity’s latest cost of living briefing reports that people are struggling to afford basic essentials such as food, housing, and healthcare, with many forced to choose between paying for these necessities or going without. Between January and April of this year, more than 2 million households in the UK were behind on their energy bills, and 1.3 million people were in rent arrears. These arrears put people at risk of going without heating and at risk of homelessness.)

This financial stress affects people's health, both mentally and physically. The ONS found that those who reported low levels of life satisfaction were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, the Citizens Advice report highlights the link between financial difficulties and physical health problems, with many people experiencing stress-related illnesses as a result of their financial situation.

These findings underline the urgent need for action to address the cost of living crisis and its impact on people's health. The Citizens Advice report calls for measures such as more affordable housing and better support for those struggling with energy bills as well as action to address the underlying causes of the crisis, including low wages and insecure work.