These are the findings from a Public Health Wales survey into the impacts of the rising cost of living, conducted between November 2022 and March 2023.
Over 2,000 people across Wales were asked a variety of questions relating to their financial circumstances, whether they felt they could cope financially during the cost of living crisis, and how it was impacting their health and day-to-day behaviours.
The vast majority of respondents (94%) said their cost of living had increased in the previous six months and 43% rated their current household financial situation as worse than it was six months ago. 77% of people said they were either very worried or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living.
Participants were asked about changes they had made to their lives as a result of rising costs of living. The most common changes were using electrical appliances less (70%) and cutting down on non-essentials (68%). 76% said their food buying habits had changed, most often switching to cheaper brands (57%) and eating out less (53%). Many people reported they were having to use savings (36%) or increase money borrowing (23%) as a result of rising costs of living. Meanwhile, 44% of people said they had made energy efficiency improvements to their home.
Almost half (44%) of people said that rising costs of living had had a negative impact on their mental health and 19% a negative impact on their physical health. 22% of people said rising costs of living had had a positive impact on how people supported each other in the community.
While most people (77%) believed they would be able to cope financially through the cost of living crisis, 23% did not think they would be able to cope. Feeling unable to cope financially was more likely in certain population groups including those from low income households, those with activity limitation, and those with children in the household.
Karen Hughes, a co-author of the report, said “Worry about finances and going without food and a warm home can impact mental health and worsen health conditions. Our survey found stark differences in how the cost of living crisis is affecting different populations in Wales, with those with existing vulnerabilities such as low household income and long term health problems or disabilities less likely to feel able to cope financially and more likely to report negative impacts on their physical and mental health.”
Rebecca Hill, Public Health Wales Programme Director, Public Health Policy, said “Increases in the cost of food, energy and other essentials are occurring at a time when many people are already financially vulnerable, and are pushing people further into hardship or poverty. We know that those living in poverty are at risk of poorer health at all stages of life, and the cost of living crisis is increasing inequalities in Wales. Reducing the unfair health gap is vital to strengthen our ability to respond to current and future crises.”
Not enough for essentials, as the cost of living crisis bites
The cost of living crisis has negatively impacted mental health for many people in Wales and many have had to cut down on essentials like food and heating to make ends meet