Cost of Living: The Impact on Health & Wellbeing
The rising cost of living (rising household energy bills, inflation and interest rates) is adversely affecting people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on many people’s ability to heat their homes and eat well has been widely reported. However, Healthwatch Lincolnshire’s new data suggests people are increasingly avoiding booking/attending NHS appointments or taking up prescriptions and over-the-counter medications because of the costs.
People are avoiding vital care due to the fear of extra costs
The number of people who avoided an NHS appointment due to the cost of travel doubled to almost one in 10, 11%, in December 2022, up from 6% in October 2022 .* * Healthwatch England National Poll results
Healthwatch Lincolnshire ran a public survey and received 327 responses.
81% of respondents agreed that the rising cost of living is causing them to worry/feel anxious.
As a result of the rising cost of living respondents reported a decline in their mental (69%) and physical (50%) health
83% of respondents reported that their financial situation had worsened over the past 6 months.
To try and cope with the rising cost of living respondents had made changes to their health and social care, which included:
- Avoiding going to the dentist due to associated costs
- Cutting down or stopping private services (e.g. counselling)
- Avoiding buying over-the-counter medication
- Stopping a special diet needed for a medical condition
Respondents had also made changes to their general lifestyle, which included:
- Putting on more clothes than normal to stay warm
- Not turning on the heating when they usually would
- Turning off or avoiding using an essential appliance to save on energy costs
- Reduced how much food they eat and buy
These changes have in turn had a negative impact on many aspects of daily life including isolation from friends and family, ability to manage any feelings of physical pain and/or a long-term health condition.
Whilst many respondents had been negatively affected by the rising cost of living, some of the most vulnerable in our communities appear to have been disproportionally affected. Individuals who seem to have been especially affected by the rising cost of living include:
- Those with a disability
- Those with a long-term health condition
- Those whose income includes means-tested and/or disability benefits.
Healthwatch Lincolnshire recommends greater support is needed for everyone but especially those who are carers, have a long-term health condition, a disability or whose income includes means-tested or disability.
Growing anxiety about the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on people’s health and well-being is rising. People are putting off prescriptions, doctor’s appointments, and even travelling to them, all because of additional expenses. Such measures taken in the name of cost reduction can seriously impact their physical and psychological health, adding to the strain on the already overwhelmed NHS.
The cost of living should not be a hindrance to health care. Governments and health organizations must act urgently to combat the increasing number of people neglecting essential care.
To find out more about the findings you can download the full report here: https://www.healthwatchlincolnshire.co.uk/report/2023-04-27/cost-living-impact-health-wellbeing
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