According to research from St. James’s Place (SJP), nearly half of UK people believe their mental and physical health has suffered because of their financial circumstances in the previous year, demonstrating the mounting negative effect that ongoing financial strain and hardship is having on the country’s health and wellness. 

Financial hardship

The study shows how financial worries are affecting sleep, relationships, and work as the UK slips into a recession. Almost half of respondents said they’ve been more concerned about their financial situation this year than they were last. For one in seven respondents (15%), money worries are causing serious stress and anxiety issues.

Every year, SJP conducts a study on financial health among individuals in the UK. The findings demonstrate how the effects of rising inflation on energy prices, mortgage and rental rates, and the overall cost of living go far beyond simply making things difficult financially for households. 

47% of the population report that this has had an impact on their mental health, and 66% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 express this as well. 

A quarter (25%) indicate that their mood has been influenced, a fifth (18%) have trouble getting sleep, and 17% are apprehensive about going out or seeing anyone else because of financial concerns.

Over a quarter (21%) have pondered taking time from work due to tension, and 19% have said that their relationship with loved ones has weakened.

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Additionally, 15% have suffered from stress-related disorders in the last year, and 13% from depression.

Physical health declining due to economic hardships

Based on SJP’s research on financial health, a concerning proportion of adults in the UK have seen an adverse change in their physical health over the past year as a result of their financial state.

Overall, 46% of respondents claim that their physical wellness has been compromised; once again, those between the ages of 18 and 34 record the greatest impact (66%), compared to those between the ages of 35 and 54 (53%).

Nearly two out of five (19%) say that their physical appearance is being affected by concern and anxiety related to money, leading to issues like hair loss, an increase in gray hairs, and a general feeling of aging.

Furthermore, 19% of people reported having to cook or purchase less healthful meals at a lower cost, and 10% of people reported having weight problems in the previous year.

Financial anxiety is predicted to persist in 2024

It is anticipated that economic stress will persist in 2024, but having a budget in place may alleviate worries and increase confidence.

With the economic situation predicted to remain difficult, over half (49%) of those surveyed believe they have been more concerned about their money lately than they were last, and several are not feeling optimistic about this year’s prospects.

Regarding their financial status in 2024, three out of ten people (31%) feel nervous, 26% feel stressed, and 17% feel insecure.

Nonetheless, the study shows that having a financial plan in place could mitigate some of these fears and increase self-assurance when negotiating a more challenging financial environment. Of UK individuals, 4 out of 10 (41%) have a strategy for their finances, and of those who do, 72% feel financially flexible, while 24% do not.  Comparatively, only half (51%) of people without a financial plan feel financially robust, while 38% do not.

Alexandra Loydon, director of engagement and consultancy at St. James’s Place, stated: “The outlook for 2024 remains mixed, and it’s likely that households will continue to feel the financial strain. It’s therefore going to be important for people to take as many steps as they can to help with their financial situation, in order to try to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing too. Seeking advice and support and having a financial plan in place will help people to take back some control of their finances, as well as maximise their ability to build financial resilience. Speaking about finances can be a sensitive topic for many; however, it’s important people shouldn’t feel alone and are able to share their concerns, so that they can access help where they need it.

“Seeking advice from debt advice charities, financial advisers (who can provide guidance on budgeting and saving) and mental health professionals can have a really positive impact and provide vital support and reassurance through difficult periods.”