What actions are people taking because of the rising cost of living?

Around 24 million people in Great Britain were reducing energy use in their home between March and June 2022, and around 16 million cut back on food and essentials.

Around 9 in 10 (89%) adults in Great Britain continue to report that their cost of living has increased, equal to around 46 million people. This is an increase from around 6 in 10 (62%, 32 million adults) when we first started asking this question in November 2021.

The most common reasons reported by these adults for their increased cost of living were:

  • An increase in the price of their food shop (94%)
  • An increase in gas or electricity bills (82%)
  • An increase in the price of fuel (77%)

For those who had seen their cost of living go up, the most common lifestyle changes they had made as a result were:

  • spending less on non-essentials (57%, around 26 million people)
  • using less gas and electricity in their home (51%, around 24 million people)
  • cutting back on non-essential journeys in their vehicle (42%, around 19 million people)
  • More than a third of those whose cost of living had gone up cut back spending on food and essentials (35%, around 16 million people). Almost a quarter (23%, around 11 million people) used savings to cover costs, and 13% (around 6 million people) said they were using more credit than usual. (Source: ONS – Office for National Statistics)

Number of pensioners living in poverty tops two million


Cost of living: Disabled households twice as likely to be struggling

Over a million disabled households in the UK are said to be in “serious financial difficulty” amid the cost of living crisis, according to a new study.

Research from charitable trust abrdn Financial Fairness Trust found 29% of households where a disabled person is present were “seriously” struggling with their finance, compared to 13% of other households.

It also shows that almost half of disabled households (48%) have found it difficult to keep their home warm and comfortable at some point this year, compared to 30% of non-disabled households.


Additionally more than one in three households (34%) in serious difficulty have someone who is disabled living at home, despite disabled households accounting for less than one in five (18%) households overall.

All ages of disabled households were more likely to be experiencing serious difficulty, but those aged between 60 and 69 were four times more likely to be in serious financially difficulty: 21% compared to 5%.

A third of smoking households in England are living in poverty with rates highest in the North


The UK’s smoking rate has dropped more than 5 per cent in the last decade and currently sits at around 15 per cent. While this is a significant improvement, the UK is still a long way off the Government’s 5 per cent rate that would make us a ‘smoke-free’ society. The way in which smoking habits are tackled needs more careful consideration.

Who’s most likely to smoke?

  • Those with mental health issues.
  • People working in lower paid jobs, those living under the poverty line and those living on benefits.
  • Living in shared accommodation or rented housing.
  • Those who are single/unmarried.
  • People with a lower qualification level.
  • Individuals whose parents smoke.

Poverty, smoking and the increased cost of cigarettes

People smoke to relieve stress from financial and lifestyle pressure, which in turn adds more financial stress to their lives due to the cost of cigarettes. The cost of cigarettes has more than doubled in less than a decade alone while take-home pay has stagnated. Essentially, someone who was smoking a pack a day in 2011 was likely spending around £35 a week whereas now that cost is closer to £75. For an individual working a minimum wage job, this equates to 13 per cent of their take-home pay a week, spent on smoking alone.

A study completed by ASH UK found that of the 1.4 million households in England living in poverty, if the cost of smoking was returned to them an estimated 418,127 would be elevated above the poverty line.

See also  Facts about depression

Quitting is important for more than just health reasons alone. Smoking is a habit that affects the health of the smoker but also their quality of life, stress levels, chances of living in poverty and their family.

Quit services and initiatives like Stoptober and Vapril give smokers the support and tools they need to stop smoking to not only improve public health, but also to help with poverty levels throughout the UK.

The association between smoking and mental health conditions

People with poor mental health die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, and smoking is the biggest cause of this life expectancy gap. A third of cigarettes smoked in England are smoked by people with a mental health condition.

Research has found that having a mental health condition is associated with:

  • current smoking
  • heavy smoking and high levels of tobacco dependence
  • desire to quit
  • difficulty remaining abstinent
  • perceived difficulty remaining abstinent

This is the same for all mental health conditions individually, but the strength and significance of the associations vary depending on the condition. (Source: Gov.uk)

How Mental Illness Impacts Life Expectancy

According to the World Health Organization, people with severe mental health disorders have a 10–25-year reduction in life expectancy. Schizophrenia mortality rates are between 2 and 2.5 times those in the general population, while individuals with depression have a 1.8 times higher risk of premature mortality. Bipolar disorder has also been known to have a significant impact on life expectancy, with premature mortality rates 35–50% higher than that of the general population.

These mortality rates are rarely directly caused by the symptoms of mental health conditions, but rather the effects these symptoms can have on overall health and life circumstances.

Mental illness increases the risk of several factors that are known to decrease life expectancy, including:

  • Chronic health conditions
  • Infectious disease
  • Poor self-care
  • Poverty
  • Suicide
  • Smoking

Antipsychotics and awareness

Given then that research studies indicate that some people taking antipsychotics are unaware of the side-effects, it is clear more needs to be done to make sure patients and their carers really understand the risks of this type of medication.

Healthcare professionals also need to be aware of the risks and regularly monitor patients for them and asking about constipation or other possible side effects during appointments.

This is important, because side-effects of medicines used to treat severe mental illness – such as schizophrenia – are a contributory factor in lower life expectancy. On average, people with severe mental illness die around 15-20 years earlier than the rest of the population.

Why are health professionals not encouraging people to quit smoking?

Most healthcare professionals are aware that stopping smoking is one of the greatest changes that people can make to improve their health. However, smoking cessation can be a difficult topic to raise. Many people say that smoking tobacco helps them to alleviate stress, cope with mental health difficulties such as low mood or anxiety and that smoking brings them relaxation or pleasure.

When discussing smoking cessation, healthcare professionals can sometimes feel that they might be depriving people of one of their pleasures or ability to cope with stress. They can also feel that they might undermine their relationship with patients and the patients’ trust, which could compromise future consultations and treatment plans.

This is where e-cigarettes/vaping can help, getting the nicotine they crave, mimicking smoking and it’s proven to be 95% safer than smoking tobacco and twice as effective as other Nicotine Replacement Therapies.

Another benefit is saving money by making the switch from tobacco products to vaping products.

 If you know someone or support someone who is still smoking suggest there are safer alternatives available without going through nicotine withdrawal which is likely to affect their medication.

Always tell your health provider of your intention to quit as your medication may need adjusting.