Exploring the Cost of Living Crisis and Its Impact on Financial Anxiety

It is widely known that environmental factors and stressful life events can impact mental health. As food, fuel, and transport costs increase, many people must choose between ‘heating and heating.’ The Food Foundation has reported that over 7 million adults experienced food insecurity in the last month 1. This financial instability can harm mental and physical health, causing stress, anxiety, and worsening existing mental health struggles.

The uncertainty and overwhelm of the cost of living crisis can cause both acute and sustained stress, leading to uncontrolled low mood and even depression and panic attacks.

The Science of Stress and Safety

Although genetic factors may contribute to an individual’s vulnerability to mental illness, it is essential to recognise that biology does not solely determine mental health. Various aspects, such as the circumstances in which people are born, raised, and reside, also significantly influence their mental and physical well-being. These factors are commonly referred to as social determinants of health.

Health and socioeconomic status exist on a continuum, with individuals in the lowest socioeconomic positions experiencing the most adverse health consequences. In contrast, those in the highest positions tend to have the best outcomes. Consequently, disparities in social conditions give rise to inequalities in health.

How Does Financial Status Influence the Social Determinants of Mental Health?

Financial difficulties can lead to chronic stress and limit healthy choices in various aspects of life. The impact of rising living costs extends beyond concerns about affordability; it can result in decisions restricting social interactions or leading to excessive work 2.

Instability in housing is connected to insomnia, stress, anxiety, and depression. Individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to reside in rented or substandard housing than the general population, exacerbating their existing challenges.

Fuel poverty, which refers to the inability to afford adequate home heating, is associated with poor maternal mental health. Additionally, it can contribute to other factors, such as limited transportation for socialising and attending appointments.

The consequences of the increasing cost of living affect those responsible for paying the bills and children living in poverty. These children face a higher risk of experiencing adverse childhood experiences, which strongly correlate with mental health issues in adulthood and an increased likelihood of other problems like substance misuse.

What Insights Have We Gained From Previous Economic Events?

Research on the 2008 economic recession has revealed a detrimental impact on mental health in the UK and globally. In England, the recession was linked to a rise in male suicide rates among the general population and individuals already facing mental health issues 3.

More recently, studies conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic indicated that 44% of adults in the UK with mental health problems, who fell behind on their bills, either contemplated or attempted suicide 4.

This shows how important it is that we take mental well-being into consideration during this challenging time.

How to Look After Mental Health During This Time

Taking care of your mental health during financial difficulties is crucial. Here are some strategies to consider:

Seek support: Contact trusted friends, family members, or support groups. Share your concerns and emotions with them, as talking about your difficulties can provide emotional relief.

Create a budget: Develop a budget to gain better control over your finances. Understand your income, expenses, and prioritise essential items. This can help alleviate stress and provide a clearer picture of your financial situation.

Seek professional advice: Consult financial advisors or credit counsellors who can provide guidance on managing your finances effectively. They can help you develop strategies to reduce debt, negotiate with creditors, or explore potential financial assistance programs.

Practice self-care: Engage in activities that you know reduce your stress levels. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and participating in activities you enjoy can all lead to a more positive mood. Taking good care of your physical health can positively impact your mental well-being.

Mindful media consumption: As the world seems more intense than ever, 24-hour news cycles can harm our mood and perspective. Mindful news watching is essential for protecting mental health. By practicing awareness and discernment, we can choose balanced and reliable news sources, limit exposure to distressing content, and take breaks when needed. This helps maintain a healthy perspective, reduce anxiety, and promote overall well-being in the face of overwhelming news cycles.

Set realistic goals: Break down your financial goals into manageable steps. Set achievable targets and celebrate small victories along the way. This can help you maintain motivation and a sense of control over your situation.

Focus on what you can control: While financial difficulties may be challenging, concentrate on the aspects you have control over. Direct your energy towards finding solutions and taking proactive steps to improve your situation.

Practice mindfulness and stress management: Engage in mindfulness exercises, meditation, deep breathing techniques, or other stress-reducing activities. These practices can help you stay present, reduce anxiety, and improve overall mental well-being.

Seek assistance for mental health: If you struggle with persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, or distress, consider seeking professional help. Mental health professionals can provide support, guidance, and appropriate treatment options.

It’s important to prioritise your mental health during challenging times. You can navigate financial difficulties while protecting your mental well-being by seeking support, managing your finances effectively, practising self-care, and seeking professional help when needed.


  1. https://foodfoundation.org.uk/press-release/millions-adults-missing-meals-cost-living-crisis-bites
  2. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/world-mental-health-day-rising-cost-of-living-and-mental-health/
  3. Ibrahim, S., Hunt, I., Rahman, M., Shaw, J., Appleby, L., & Kapur, N. (2019). Recession, recovery and suicide in mental health patients in England: Time trend analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 215(4), 608-614. doi:10.1192/bjp.2019.119
  4. https://mmhpistage.wpengine.com/publications/the-state-were-in/