Anxiety levels are rising among the UK public, largely caused by the cost of living crisis, specifically energy bills, according to the Office of National Statistics.
According to the ONS published a report around 6 per cent of adults reported feeling lonely always or often in the latest period. This increased to around a quarter of adults who reported feeling lonely always, often or some of the time. Around one in three adults experienced high levels of anxiety.
The research also found that around 88 per cent of adults reported their cost of living had risen over the past month; when we first started asking this question in the period 3 to 14 November 2021, this proportion was 62 per cent.
The most common reasons given by adults who reported their cost of living had increased in the latest period were an increase in the price of food shopping by 92 per cent, an increase in gas or electricity bills by 85 per cent, and an increase in the price of fuel by 79 per cent.
Of these reasons, almost 58 per cent reported they were most worried about an increase in gas and electricity bills. Around 41 per cent of adults reported that in the past two weeks they were buying less food when food shopping with 38 per cent of adults reporting they had to spend more than usual to get what they normally buy.
The study found that around 43 per cent of adults reported they were very or somewhat worried about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on their lives right now compared to 39% in the previous period.
Hargreaves Lansdown senior personal finance analyst Sarah Coles: “Runaway prices are forcing us to make some really horrible financial decisions, and an alarming two in five people are now spending less on food: it’s no wonder that a third of us are so anxious.
“Hikes in the cost of everything from food to energy and fuel have hit hard. Unsurprisingly, in the month when we faced truly terrible rises in energy prices, overwhelmingly our biggest worry was rising gas and electricity bills. Among those who pay energy bills, the proportion who found it difficult to afford them has risen to 41 per cent.
“We’re taking all sorts of steps to cut back. More than half of us are spending less on non-essentials (56 per cent) and over a third are shopping around more (35 per cent). Meanwhile, 40 per cent are cutting back on non-essential journeys, and around half (51 per cent) are using less fuel such as gas or electricity at home.
“Just how extreme these steps are will depend on the measures people are having to employ. While we’re all considering things like turning the heating down and taking shorter showers, there’s also an alarming number of people making really horrible decisions in an effort to cut their energy use.
“There are also alarm bells ringing over food. Some 14 per cent of people are most concerned about the price of food, and 2 in 5 (41 per cent) are buying less food when food shopping. The proportion buying less is growing – up from 39 per cent in the previous period and 18 per cent at the beginning of the year. And while this will include some people who are giving up expensive treats or cutting down on waste, there’s a real risk that some are having to go hungry.
“It’s no wonder that we’re living with so much anxiety. A third of us (34 per cent) have high levels of anxiety – which rises to 37 per cent of women and 42 per cent of those aged 16-29. And while this is horrible in itself, it also makes it far harder for us to think clearly about our situation and make plans. If the cost of living is weighing on your mind it’s vital not to try to cope with this alone. You might be able to talk to family and friends, but it’s also worth approaching a charity like Citizens Advice, who will be able to talk through your situation and will know of any help out there for you.”