April 27, 2023

Third of adults cut healthy eating and socialising due to rising cost of living

by Carnegie UK

People are eating less healthily and cutting down on exercise and socialising due to the cost of living, according to new research based on a YouGov poll of 2366 people from across the UK.

The Carnegie UK study urges new government support for struggling households, warning the long-term impact of these trends may be more expensive for the public purse than short-term help.

The report, called The Long Shadow of the Cost of Living Emergency, says current pressures mean people are finding it hard to protect their health. According to the research a third of adults (34%) say rising costs mean they can’t eat as healthily, while 16 per cent say the crisis means they’re exercising less regularly.

The research also warns that rising costs means people are cutting back on social and leisure activities. About a third (35%) of people say the crisis has hit their ability to spend time with friends, while a quarter (24%) say the same about family.

People’s long-term life prospects are also at risk, the study shows. About one in six (17%) adults said that the cost of living emergency had a negative impact on their performance at work or education.

Sarah Davidson, chief executive of Carnegie UK, said: “Rising living costs are taking their toll on quality of life in the UK. Our health is at risk due to poorer diets and less exercise. We’re seeing people struggling to perform at work and education. And as people are forced to stay at home, we’re going to see increased experience of loneliness.

“While this is an urgent problem now for individuals and families, we’re also storing up trouble for the future. For example, an increase in long-term ill health could have a devastating impact on the wider economy and the NHS. And fewer people socialising will hit local economies as well as damaging our collective mental health.

“That’s why it is not only right, but smart for government to take further action to help people cope with the rising cost of living. Policymakers should spend now to save later and protect our wellbeing. That means new action to bring down energy bills. It means new efforts to boost wages for low-income households. It means ensuring that the benefits system helps people to make ends meet.”

Carnegie UK is a supporter of The Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) campaign to embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, Universal Credit should protect people from going without essentials. JRF’s research reveals that 90% of low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without essentials.

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy advisor at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “This new research from Carnegie UK shows, when millions of people are going without essentials like food, heating or clothing, nutritious food and a social life are some of the first sacrifices low-income families have to make putting their health and happiness at risk.

“It’s why so many organisations from those helping single parents of young children to others helping people with mental health problems or long-term disabilities want the governments of the UK to back the Essentials Guarantee. This means ensuring that the basic rate of Universal Credit at least covers the cost of life’s essentials, with support never being pulled below that level.”

For more information, contact Stuart Mackinnon


The image was taken by documentary photographer, activist and filmmaker, Kirsty Mackay.