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

Location: Scotland

17th Jan 2023

Data we released today (17 January 2023) in Scotland reveals mental health risk ‘red flags’ with people less able to do the things that support good mental health and well-being due to their financial situation. We are calling for government action to avoid widespread mental health problems in the fallout from the cost-of-living crisis.

Our survey revealed ‘red flags’ as many people are not able to do the things needed for good mental health:

  • one-third of adults in Scotland are experiencing poor-quality sleep as a result of financial worries
  • almost a quarter of people are meeting with friends less often
  • people are reporting engaging less with hobbies and exercising less

A survey of more than 1000 adults in Scotland, which we commissioned found that concerns about finances are having a negative effect on people’s ability to be involved in some of the activities known to help protect mental health and prevent problems from developing.


of adults in Scotland have poor quality sleep

Almost one-quarter

of people are meeting friends less often

One in six

people are pursuing a hobby less often

According to our poll, carried out in November 2022, concerns about personal finances led to one in three (33%) adults in Scotland having poor quality sleep and almost one in four people (23%) meeting with friends less often in the previous month. One in six (17%) pursued a hobby less often, and one in seven (14%) exercised less frequently.

We are calling for action to help prevent potential widespread mental health problems connected to the cost-of-living crisis. Today, we published ‘Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis: another pandemic in the making?’, setting out evidence-based recommendations for the UK and Scottish governments to tackle the mental health effects of the cost-of-living crisis.

Our paper emphasises that the priority must be to make sure 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 stresses that the income support announced so far does not go far enough to meet the needs of people on low incomes, who continue to go without essentials such as food and heating.

Shari McDaid, Head of Evidence and Impact at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

“The negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis on public mental health could be on a par with or worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. We are facing a public mental health emergency, and we need our governments to take action with the same urgency as they did during the pandemic.

“We know poverty and financial stress put people at increased risk of mental health problems. The unaffordable costs of basic living essentials are causing more and more people to fall into poverty or experience financial stress, and we are seeing ‘red flag’ behaviours. While they may seem like little things, not getting good quality sleep, not being able to spend time with friends and family, and not exercising are all detrimental to our mental health. We need these things to have good mental health and well-being, but if you’re worried about being able to afford your energy bills or can’t afford the transport to visit your friends and family, these healthy behaviours are challenging to maintain.

“We need our governments to step up their efforts to support people to live well and have good mental health. In our paper published today, we have shared our recommendations, including increasing funding for community support organisations and preventing financial stress by increasing income support and advice.”

We have previously reported that 40% of adults in Scotland felt anxious, 33% felt stressed, and 14% felt hopeless about their financial circumstances (November 2022).

In the paper, we also recommend requiring all government departments to assess the mental health effects of decisions that address the cost-of-living crisis, making sure 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 1044 adults aged 18 and over in Scotland between 7 to 14 November 2022. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative of the population in Scotland.

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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