What the cost-of-living crisis could mean for UK mental health

The ‘cost-of-living crisis’ refers to the rapid rise in the price of essential goods and common services relative to the rise in wages, tax, and inflation. 

Though this is not a new phenomenon, the impact on individuals, in many different ways, is undeniable. There has been a rapid rise in requests and requirement for mental health services, as well as long waiting lists developing for those that are already available. 

The cost-of-living crisis is having an extreme impact on mental health, from those who may have never experienced mental health issues, to the worsening of specific conditions in individuals who may already be struggling. 

Though there are some schemes and programmes currently being set up (1), there are still huge improvements needed and action taken surrounding this modern crisis. This article will look at some rationales for the current state of mental health affairs and the possible traits and conditions to be aware of.

Can social and economic circumstances affect mental health?

Because of the strains faced due to the rising costs of supermarket goods, energy and water bills, as well as many common services, there are many reasons why an individual may begin to struggle with mental health issues. 

For example, if an individual is unable to afford their regular weekly food shop due to the cost of their household bills, they may begin to feel anxious and/or concerned about the future of what else they may not be able to afford. 

In turn, this may impact their ability to attend and complete work tasks, potentially impacting their pay at the end of the month and generally worsening the situation in regard to money worries. 

This, and many other reasons, can begin to describe the situations that some individuals are facing, though there are countless different struggles that individuals face every day. 

How the cost-of-living crisis might affect your mental health

There are many ways in which an individual may be affected by the cost-of-living crisis. This may take the form of common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but the added pressure on mental health driven by the ongoing crisis can have impacts in many areas of life also.

One study stresses the impact of mental health, the cost-of-living crisis, and obesity (2).  If you have the chance to read this, it will further illustrate the varying impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having and will continue to have on the UK population. 

How can having a mental health problem affect finances?

As briefly mentioned earlier, the presence of mental health issues can influence an individual’s work life and career, therefore impacting their ability to attend work and complete a regular workday. 

In some situations, such as those that are self-employed, this may lead to loss of pay on the days that an individual may take off due to mental health struggles, further adding to their financial difficulties and financial situation.

This, combined with the rising costs of household bills, can seriously impact individuals’ ability to keep up with monthly payments – adding to the negative emotions and experiences that may arise as a result of this. 

It’s important to keep doing the things that are good for our mental health

Despite the struggles that many individuals are now dealing with in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, it is important to remember that there are steps that everyone can take to improve the situation, little by little, day by day. 

This may be a long-term goal for many individuals, but allowing yourself (or others around you) to fall into bad habits as a result of mental health struggles can only make the situation worse. Instead, alone or with the support of others, it is important to continue taking part in activities and doing things that support a positive mental outlook.

These activities may need some adjustments in some cases, but keeping regular habits and maintaining the positive benefits of these are some of the best things you can do for your mental health. 

The cost of living’s hidden mental health impact

Before beginning to investigate some of the ways in which individuals can begin to combat mental illness issues and work to improve their mental health in general, it is important first to investigate some of the ways in which mental health can manifest into different issues due to the cost-of-living crisis. 

The following subheadings describe some of the most common ways in which an individual may be impacted by mental health issues, but please be aware that there are many other ways in which some people may struggle – this list is not definite. 

1. Social withdrawal

Suppose an individual recognises that they are struggling with a mental health issue (or multiple issues). In that case, they may feel ashamed or begin to withdraw themselves from social activities as a result of their struggles. 

For these individuals, not interacting with others may be their way of coping with the situation, as they may feel that social interaction is too much for them, especially if they begin struggling with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression as a result of this. 

It is important that this individual, or those around them, begin to reach out socially again. This can seem like a big step, but explaining the situation and setting goals surrounding this may be a great way to ease back into a positive social life. Every little helps!

Understanding this further is key to building an understanding of why social isolation is a common factor in those experiencing mental health struggles, but it is also vital in creating effective and suitable care for those who need it (3). 

2. Irritability and impatience

If an individual is faced with more and more pressure every day, both from the cost-of-living crisis and financial struggles, then this may begin to impact their behaviour and their interactions with those around them. In some individuals, this can manifest as aggression, irritability, or impatience. In some cases, this may further isolate the individual, adding to the issues that they may face in their recovery. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with this particular issue, it is important to remain patient, both with the individual struggling and if those around them engage in conversation. 

3. Struggles with addiction

For some individuals – those struggling with the additional pressures of the cost-of-living crisis – their reaction may be to turn to substances or behaviours that develop into an addiction. For some, addictive behaviours may act as a form of comfort during difficult times and lead to further mental health issues as well as a serious risk to physical health and wellbeing. 

In these cases, it is important that these individuals seek help as soon as possible, either by themselves or with advice and support from those around them. To find help specialised for you and your needs and requirements, please contact a helpline such as Rehab Recovery for alcohol rehab or Samaritans

Ways to look after your mental health during the cost-of-living crisis

So, what can individuals do to improve their mental health and well-being from day to day? To tackle the issues that the ongoing cost-of-living crisis can cause, it is important to take little steps every day to make small changes, rather than expecting an overnight change.

This can be as little as 10 minutes a day, but just taking those small everyday steps can make a big difference in the long term, especially if the individual is willing to overcome and face the issues that they may be struggling with.

The following subheadings outline some of the best ways in which individuals can make little changes every day to make steps towards a more positive mental attitude. 

1. Prioritise your health

As a first step, it is important that individuals put their health – both physical and mental – first. This is vital as it means that the individual has the motivation and knowledge to listen to what their body is telling them. 

Often, if an individual feels off, perhaps as a result of mental health issues, then take time to listen to this feeling, and take time to work on it, either by engaging in something that the individual enjoys, or just taking some time for self-care activities, can have a big impact on the individual’s wellbeing. 

2. Take a break from bad news

Reading the news every day, especially during the current cost-of-living crisis, can often feel like a negative information overload, often leading to other negative feelings in reaction to this. 

Taking a break, either by setting up a block on your phone or not picking up the newspaper for the day, can give the individual a well-needed mental break from the stresses and emotions associated with this otherwise daily behaviour. 

In addition, taking this time out from the day can lead to time for other activities – perhaps something that the individual enjoys doing and doesn’t otherwise have time before. 

Photo credit: Free usage licence Unsplash.

3. Focus on what you can control

In all cases, it is vital that individuals remain realistic when thinking about and planning for the future within the cost-of-living crisis. By focussing only on what the individual can control, where possible, is the best way in which an individual can focus on their mental health and their well-being. Prioritising this before things that are out of their control. 

Though this step is all about focussing on the individual, some individuals may also benefit from seeking financial advice during these difficult times; this will take some of the pressure away from the individual in regards to their finances, receiving clear advice and next steps for when it comes to difficult decisions. 

What needs to change?

There are many suggestions for the next steps that the UK can take in regard to the mounting issues faced because of the cost-of-living crisis. For example, continuing the energy price cap to cease rising energy costs and increasing welfare for those most in need i.e., households with the lowest incomes, can both reduce the financial pressures faced by many UK households. 

However, for those who may be experiencing social withdrawal, irritability and impatience, and potential addiction struggles, more help is needed, as well as for those struggling with a multitude of different issues. 

To find out how to access further support, as well as learn more about the cost-of-living crisis and mental health, take a look at some of our other pages as well as contacting specialist services for your specific needs. 


[1] Broadbent, P., Thomson, R., Kopasker, D., McCartney, G., Meier, P., Richiardi, M., McKee, M. and Katikireddi, S.V., 2023. The public health implications of the cost-of-living crisis: outlining mechanisms and modelling consequences. The Lancet Regional Health–Europe, 27.

[2] Robinson, E., 2023. Obesity and the cost of living crisis. International Journal of Obesity, 47(2), pp.93-94.

[3] Morese, R., Palermo, S., Torello, C. and Sechi, F., 2020. Social Withdrawal and Mental Health: An Interdisciplinary Approach. In Social Isolation-An Interdisciplinary View. IntechOpen.

*Disclosure: This article is for entertainment and educational purposes only and may be collaborative in creation. Nothing on this site constitutes financial advice. I am not a financial advisor. You should always do your own research and consult a qualified financial advisor before making big decisions with your money as capital is at risk with any investment. This post may contain links to external sites and affiliates, Savvy Dad accepts no responsibility for how you use these external sites and services (see Site Terms and Privacy Policy).


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