Public Health

The Big Question – 02 – Cost of living crisis


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How will the cost of living crisis affect people in the UK?


It all began a year ago. I had just finished self-isolating and the first place I ended up in was my local Tesco store. The joy of being released was swiftly overcome by sadness when I saw the increased price of my favourite brand of instant coffee. It was a small increase but it felt significant. I remember walking around the supermarket in a daze, wondering what had changed in the ten days I’d been shut away from the world. I wish I was exaggerating, but I was devastated. Something that was a nice treat for me was about to become a source of stress. A purchase that I couldn’t justify making when I had bills to pay. An increase on one item doesn’t seem significant but apply that across the board and the total price of my shopping seemed higher than it ought to be.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Of course, back then the reason was COVID-19 and global supply chain issues. Now, it’s a combination of the previous explanations, the Russia-Ukraine war and soaring inflation. Wages have either stagnated or increased by amounts that don’t meet the rising costs of household and essential goods. Energy bills have soared within the past year and the general consensus is that others will follow. McDonald’s even put the price of their cheeseburger up for the first time in 14 years.

To put it bluntly, we are in difficult times.

The Institute for Government defines the cost of living crisis as:

The fall in ‘real’ disposable incomes (that is, adjusted for inflation and after taxes and benefits) that the UK has experienced since late 2021.

According to them, the causes are inflation being higher than any increases in wages and benefits. The infographic below shows just how much of an impact this has had on people’s finances within the past year.

cost of living

From a public health standpoint, if things continue we could see food and child poverty on an unprecedented scale. Parents may not be able to feed or clothe their kids. Families may not be able to turn on their heating this winter, leading to an increase in illness and a further burden on the already crippled NHS.

Mentally, the cost of living crisis is also wreaking havoc on the population. People feel hopeless and like they’re not in control of their own lives. There has been an increase in workforce strikes, with the most important being the upcoming nurses’ strike within the NHS.

There is grave concern about the long-lasting damage of this crisis on predominantly low-income people. This is because low-paying jobs do not reflect the rise in household goods and essentials. They do not have the resources needed because local councils are underfunded and unavailable to provide help. The danger is that these people will fall further and further behind compared to those who are better off.

The most damning part is that it feels like this is merely the beginning and unless the government do more to protect people from the harsh sting of the crisis, hundreds of thousands of people will find it extremely difficult to recover.

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References
A Breakdown of the Rising Cost of Living – Statista
Cost of living crisis – Institute for Government
Children stressed and self-harming over UK cost of living crisis – The Guardian

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