The health impact of the cost-of-living crisis

Poverty health impact cost of living
Pexels: Andrea Piacquadio
ViewsOctober 27th, 2022

Mike Hedges MS, Senedd Member for Swansea East, says that the cost-of-living crisis will cause health to deteriorate 

We have known for several years that there is a large discrepancy in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy depending on individual wealth based upon the area that people live. A 2020 report by ONS showed the gap in life expectancy at birth between the least and most deprived areas in Wales was 9 years for males and 7.4 years for female. Females living in the most deprived areas of Wales can expect to live 19.1 years less in “good” health compared with those in the least deprived and the gap is 18.2 years for males. Is it any surprise that those who live in dry, warm homes, eat a balanced diet and do not spend their days worrying about heating their homes and feeding their families live longer and healthier lives.

What the cost of living crisis is causing is more people, many in stable employment or with occupational pensions, suffering the health effects of inadequate diet, cold homes, and constant worry over the lack of money.

We know older people are particularly vulnerable to cold , for an older person with a body temperature below 35 degrees centigrade there is a risk of health problems such as hypothermia, heart attack, liver damage and kidney problems. Research from around the world continues to show that those children in cold and damp houses are at increased risk of poor health, the number of which are increasing due to the cost of living crisis.

We all know the importance of a balanced diet, but fresh and less processed foods are the more expensive food choice. Now recent food cost rises are pushing these healthier options further out of the reach of large numbers of people. Instead, families are turning to cheaper, less nutritious food options such as microwave meals, or cutting back on food completely. I have met mothers who go days without eating in order to feed their children, who eat toilet paper in order to fill their stomachs and this is happening in 21st century Wales.

A diet with lower nutritional quality increases the risk of health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. On Diabetes, Diabetes UK says data suggests poor diets linked to the cost-of-living crisis is causing concerns and the impact is being disproportionately seen in deprived parts of Wales.

With the difficulty in affording travel then there is an increased risk of isolation which is where the free travel for the over sixties in Wales is helpful. Also, there is the stress experienced each time vehicles are filled, or partially filled with fuel which is also likely to affect mental health.

The health risks include the difficulty in accessing healthcare which can result in late or missed diagnosis and treatment. Increased isolation and loneliness can lead to depression, and anxiety.

Financial stress can reduce the quality of life. People who were in the just about managing category are now in financial difficulty, many, for the first time. Financial worry should not be underestimated, imagine the first thing that you think of each morning is lack of money for essentials and that worry stays with you all day. How soon can I access the foodbank, will putting more clothes on reduce heating costs, can the food be eaten cold.

Stress can have a massive impact on our day-to-day lives and reduce our quality of life. There is evidence that long-term stress can help to develop or worsen several mental and physical health conditions.

As the cost of living crisis makes more people have financial problems then the health of many will deteriorate and for some unfortunately it could prove fatal.

One Response

  1. Aniket gupta says:

    Its a very helpful and informative article on “Health impact cost of living”. Thank you “Bevan foundation” for this article.

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