Money worries don’t just impact our wallets, they are closely linked to our mental and physical health.
At a time of rising concern about the cost of living therefore, it’s important to look after each other, watch out for those who might be struggling, and share positive steps we can all take to try to cope with what’s happening.
What exactly is the cost of living crisis?
According to the Institute for Government – a leading think tank working to make government more effective – “the ‘cost of living crisis’ refers to the fall in ‘real’ disposable income that the UK has experienced since late 2021.” In simple terms it means that the cost of everyday essentials is outstripping average incomes.
The causes, the Institute says, are a combination of high inflation outstripping wage increases and benefit increases and tax rises. There are many factors playing into this – rising household energy costs, fuel price hikes, increased prices for groceries.
Why do financial pressures impact our health?
Research by the Money and Health Policy Institute, an independent charity set up by Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, suggests that “a poor financial situation will have a direct detrimental effect on an individual’s mental health, producing physical and psychological symptoms such as loss of sleep, poor concentration and reduced motivation.” Numerous studies suggest that financial difficulties are a common cause of stress and anxiety – the Mental Health Foundation says worrying about money can affect your sleep, mood and energy levels. It can also affect your ability to work and have good relationships.
As ordinary households grapple with the rise in their everyday bills and the prospect of average energy bills breaking £4,000 next year, a growing number of charities are warning of serious hardship.
How to help employees
Look out for signs that members of your team might be struggling. Talk to them about help that is available from their employer and point them to organisations that offer advice and support. If you have our digital wellbeing platform, point them to the support directory that signposts all the relevant charities and support services.
Where to get advice
The following organisations are established centres of impartial advice and support and also feature in our wellbeing support signposting.
Money Helper is a government-approved online advice service that provides free, clear and impartial advice. There’s information about available support, how to budget and what to do if you are struggling financially.
Citizens Advice offers confidential information and advice to help people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other problems. It believes no-one should have to struggle without good quality, independent advice and gives people the knowledge and confidence to find the way forward.
Turn2Us is a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to benefits, grants and support services. It’s website is full of information and advice about the financial support you might be entitled to.
Understanding financial stress
Anyone can experience financial stress. While it occurs more often in low income households, the current cost of living crisis is impacting more people with relatively well-paid jobs.
Female employees, those from an ethnic minority background, and those with caring responsibilities or who are disabled, are much more likely to be facing increased pressure due to financial worries. A recent report by our friends at PwC highlighted the impact of financial stress on overall employee mental health, with 49% of those surveyed saying money worries had a severe or major impact on them in the past year.
The cost of living crisis is the last thing any of us expected after two years of living through a pandemic. If you see a family member, colleague, or employee struggling, reach out and encourage them to explore any help available from their employer or from the advice groups we have highlighted in this article.