UK adults report poorer sleep, seeing friends less often and exercising less as financial strain takes its toll - new survey results

17th Jan 2023

We call for further action from the UK and devolved governments in our report published today (17 January 2023), ‘Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis report: another pandemic in the making?’. Our recent survey reveals many people are not able to do the things needed for good mental health:

  • almost one in three adults is experiencing poorer quality sleep as a result of financial worries
  • almost a quarter of people are meeting friends less often
  • people are reporting engaging less with hobbies and exercising less

Many people are showing signs of not being able to do the things that support good mental health due to their financial situation, a survey we commissioned has revealed. The survey of over 3000 adults in the UK found that concerns about finances negatively affect people’s ability to participate in some activities known to help protect mental health and prevent problems from developing.


of adults in the UK have poorer quality sleep

Almost one-quarter

of people are meeting friends less often

One in eight

people are exercising less often

According to the poll, concerns about personal finances led to almost one in three (30%) adults in the UK having poorer quality sleep and almost one-quarter of people (23%) meeting with friends less often in the previous month. One in six (15%) pursued a hobby less often, and one in eight (12%) exercised less frequently.

We call for action to help prevent potential widespread mental health problems connected to the cost-of-living crisis. Today, we published a policy briefing setting out evidence-based recommendations for governments across the UK to tackle the mental health impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.

The paper emphasises that the priority must be to ensure suitable financial support schemes are available to all who need them to prevent people from experiencing poverty, financial stress and related mental health problems.

The paper also stresses that the income support announced to date does not go far enough to meet the needs of low-income people who continue to go without essentials such as food and heating.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:

This survey was commissioned late last year when the crisis was still gathering pace. But even then, there were clear red flags about its impact on people’s ability to sustain good mental health. This is not only a financial crisis – it is a public mental health emergency.

Concerns about finances are reducing people’s ability to do the basic things that we know support good mental health. We need good quality sleep. We need to be able to do things we enjoy. We need exercise. We need to be able to spend time with the people we love. We need to do more than simply survive to have good mental health and well-being: we must thrive if we are to prevent mental health problems from developing.

We need our governments to do more to alleviate the negative mental health impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. In our paper published today, we have shared our recommendations, including increasing funding for community support organisations and preventing financial stress by focusing support on those that need it more.

We have previously reported that 34% of adults in the UK felt anxious, 29% felt stressed, and 10% felt hopeless about their financial circumstances.

In the paper, we also recommend requiring all government departments to assess the mental health impact of decisions that address the cost-of-living crisis, ensuring that frontline workers are trained to respond effectively to the mental health effects of financial stress and strain, and making sure that energy companies, essential service providers, and creditors have procedures in place to provide a compassionate response to customers experiencing financial strain.


Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis report: another pandemic in the making?

Our report gives an overview of the current and likely effects the cost-of-living crisis has on people’s mental health. We cannot ignore the potentially devastating impact the cost-of-living crisis has on mental health.
Read our report

Notes to editors

Opinium carried out the poll of 3060 adults aged 18+ in the UK between 7 to 14 November 2022. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative of the UK population.

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] our press inbox. We have expert staff available for interviews.

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • the Mental Health Foundation has been the home of Mental Health Awareness Week since 2001
  • our vision is for good mental health for all
  • the Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems
  • we drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk of poor mental health
  • the Mental Health Foundation is committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community where we can all be ourselves
  • the Mental Health Foundation relies on voluntary donations to provide evidence-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health

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