Many of us across the UK are feeling the growing impact of energy, food and fuel price rises. The decrease in disposable income not only makes it harder to make ends meet but can lead to pressure on social activities and reduce opportunities to connect with others.
This blog explores some of the impacts of the cost of living on emotional wellbeing and opportunities to tackle loneliness through community and connection.
A growing public health concern, loneliness has been linked to numerous physical and mental health problems, such as depression, heart disease and a weakened immune system, with research indicating that loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26%1. In 2022, more than 3 million people in the UK said they felt lonely often or always (chronic loneliness).
Youth loneliness and cost of living
While we know loneliness can affect anyone at any point in their life, research has found that young people are increasingly at risk of experiencing it, with some research finding that they are five times as likely as those aged over 65 to experience loneliness2.
The effects of inflation have seen almost half of those aged 16-25 fear they will never earn enough to start a family3, while other insight finds many young people are likely to be “cautiously hopeful” but “struggling” this year4.
To make ends meet, additional part time work and taking on more hours is proving common among young people5, with some surveys finding the rise in costs hitting students particularly hard too6.
45% of young people had taken on more hours at work since January 2022 due to rising prices, 21% said they had taken on a second job and nearly 23% have moved in with family. Ipsos survey of 2,235 British Adults including 400 18-24-year olds between 7-9 Dec 2023.
Impact on our social life
The financial strain on social activities can have an isolating affect, something which is the focus of the latest Better Health, Every Mind Matters campaign which is focusing on 16-34-year-olds and encouraging people to ‘Lift Someone out of Loneliness’ with lots of low-cost ideas to reach out and connect with someone. You can find more about the campaign by visiting its microsite.
Connecting with others can help us to feel less socially isolated and tackle feelings of loneliness at any age or life stage. Some of our recommendations for those feeling lonely include;
- Catch up with old friends: reach out by calling or sending a message through social media. You might feel your friends are busy and won’t have time, but when you take the first step you often find friends are keen to reconnect.
- Invest time in new connections: join local groups or classes, volunteering is an excellent way to get involved in your local community. Both are great ways to develop your own skills and interests while meeting new people. Volunteering Matters provides lots of information about where you can volunteer
- Strike up a conversation: with neighbours, people you pass in the street, on the school run or throughout your day, which may help you be more receptive to more meaningful connections as well. Be More Us has some tips on how you can do this.
- Connect online: this can help you stay in touch with friends and family and make new friends. You can often find free courses in libraries and community centre to help improve your digital skills. For example, Age UK branches offer silver surfer classes and there are numerous free online courses available too.
How our built environment makes a difference
The basic, no-cost opportunities to strike up a conversation with a neighbour or acquaintance, so called ‘weak ties’ alongside opportunities to develop real friendships, ‘strong ties’, are actually more fundamental to how we plan and design our built environment longer-term. Getting our environments right could play a critical role in how connections are made, regardless of economic stability.
Our built environments, from the houses, flats and shared living spaces we reside in, to the streets, lay out of public spaces and businesses, can all influence how we connect with each other as a community and how we feel as an individual. A ‘less lonely’ neighbourhood needs to have the right collection of buildings and friendly shared places which are liked by residents and are, therefore, comfortable to use and will foster encounters with others7.
Recent research found that adolescents who are more likely to say hello to their neighbours felt there was someone there for them and therefore were less likely to experience loneliness to the same extent as their peers who didn’t have a neighbourhood that felt as supportive8.
Looking after your health in a cost of living crisis
For many of us, managing the financial and emotional pressure of rising costs can take its toll on our health. Getting the advice we need, along with support available, can help to mitigate some of the issues which are connected to rising costs of living.
- Prioritising your health: accessing the right medical professional support and using pharmacies for everyday healthcare concerns. Managing more chronic/long-term conditions keeping appointments and managing medication is important – prices for NHS prescriptions have been frozen (free for under 18s and over 60s), bus fares have been frozen across many routes but check what support is available via Healthwatch
- Talk to someone: as well as connecting with friends and family, connecting with charities who offer advice about physical and mental health can be really beneficial and they may connect you to further help in your local area.
- Get support: You can find out what support you are entitled to through Citizens Advice, who can offer advice on areas such as housing or debt management. You can visit their website here. Your local council may offer residents support and advice too and many have dedicated hotlines or pop-up information events, check your local council website.
Healthwatch provide lots of additional advice on looking after our health during the cost of living crisis, from finding a warm hub, or nearby foodbank, to contacting your local Healthwatch for support.
- Holt-Lunstad, 2015
- DCMS: Investigating factors associated with loneliness in adults in England, June 2022
- Ipsos Mori Survey for Sky, Jan 2023
- Prince’s Trust Natwest Youth Index 2023
- You Gov Cost of Living Segmentation, Feb 2023
- Student Money Survey 2022
- Tackling loneliness through the built environment, Campaign to End Loneliness
- Loneliness and personal well-being in young people: moderating effects of individual, interpersonal, and community factors. Goodfellow, C. Hardoon, D. Inchley, J. Leyland, A.H. Qualter, P. Simpson, S,A. and Long, E (2022). Journal of Adolescences, 94(4).
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