Posted on 27th November 2022

The cost-of-living crisis is forcing Brits to go into the office to work and shower, raid their savings and borrow from friends and family, according to the latest update of the LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Index.

The cost of essentials needs to go up by just £128 per month for Brits to struggle financially in the months ahead, reports LifeSearch, as its latest update on the UK’s Health, Wealth and Happiness Index reports further falls, dropping to levels not seen since the third lockdown in Q1 2021, as the cost-of-living crisis hits Brits’ wellbeing with a devastating blow.

When asked how much spending on essentials would have to rise each month for them to struggle financially, one in ten (12%) British adults said “£0 I already struggle”. On average, UK adults say essentials need to go up by just £128 pm for them to struggle, dropping to just £111 pm for women and £102 pm for younger people (aged 18-34).

Furthermore, it may not take long for many to reach their financial breaking point as the vast majority (73%) of Brits think they will be worse off financially in the months ahead – worse off on average by £342 pm, rising to £426 pm among younger people aged 18-34. This is £90 more a month compared to when LifeSearch asked consumers the same question six months ago (£252 pm). Unsurprisingly, a fifth (19%) of all adults think about the cost of living and their finances multiple times a day (rising to 26% of those aged 35-44) and a further 25% say it’s on their mind "daily".

Commissioned with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and supported by consumer insights from among 3,000 adults in the UK, the annual update of the combined LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Index reveals further falls over the last six months, with the Index reaching 79.0 at the end of the third quarter 2022 (the lowest level in the series since Q1 2021). The Happiness element of the Index saw the greatest falls in this period (8.3 points down), reflecting the acceleration of the cost-of-living crisis and the period of national mourning for the Queen.

The study from LifeSearch, the UK’s leading life insurance broker, has also found the severe consequences that many Brits look set to face this winter due to the cost-of-living crisis:

- Nearly one half (45%) of adults anticipate they may use the majority of their savings (rising to 62% of 18–34-year-olds) while a third (33%) will have significantly more debt (rising again to 49% of 18–34-year-olds)
- A third (34%) think they will be unable to pay for energy (49% of 18–34-year-olds) and 68% will turn the heating off when normally it is on
- A fifth (22%) anticipate they may be unable to pay their rent/mortgage (40% of 18–34-year-olds) and 17% will have to sell their home to release equity (42% of 18–34-year-olds)
- One in three (34%) will struggle to pay for food (47% of 18–34-year-olds and 55% of those renting with local authority) and 31% won’t be able to afford to run their car
- 36% of parents don’t think they will be able to pay for childcare, and 60% say they will struggle to pay for things their children want/need this winter

The crisis is also likely to have long term ramifications as over a third (36%) of all adults aged 18-34 state they have delayed having children due to the cost-of-living crisis (compared with 13% of all adults). Furthermore, a fifth (19%) of all Brits have delayed buying a home (41% of young people) and 24% have delayed any big purchases such as new car.

UK’s Health Index falls again as over a quarter Brits say their mental health has worsened

The LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Index has found that the UK’s health has fluctuated since the pandemic began but has taken a fall in the last quarter as excess deaths were up and long-term sickness (eg Long Covid) prevailed. The study found that over a quarter Brits (27%) say their mental health has got worse in last 6 months (rising to 29% of women, and 33% of those aged 35-44). Of those whose mental health has been impacted in the last six months, the cost of living has been the key factor at force, in particular concerns over energy bills (20%) and affording food and essentials (18%), but also physical health concerns including accessing GP services (14%).

Emma Walker, Chief Marketing Officer at LifeSearch who commissioned the study said: “The outlook for many people this coming winter is very stark. Huge numbers of people are financially vulnerable and any further rises to their cost of living may potentially push them to their limits. Our study has shown that many are anticipating some dire consequences this winter as almost one in two British adults expect to exhaust all their savings and one in three will struggle to pay for food, with a fifth expecting to use a food bank.

“It’s no surprise therefore to find that the nation’s health, wealth and happiness has fallen again on the last quarter as the cost-of-living crisis is not only hitting our wallets, but our health and happiness too. As a fifth of all adults think about the cost of living and their finances multiple times a day, it’s no surprise that it’s the key factor to why Brits’ mental health has also worsened in the last six months.”

Wealth Index sees five quarters of consecutive falls as two-thirds state they feel worse-off financially

After a record low during the height of the Covid lockdowns, the LifeSearch Wealth Index saw an uplift as the economy began to reopen in Q2 2021, but since then it has only experienced consecutive falls, down to 82.1 in the series in the last quarter – a low not seen in almost two years. In the last six months, almost two-thirds (63%) say they feel worse off (up to 70% of women) and 24% feel "a lot" worse off (31% of 35-54), while just 10% feel better off (18% of 18–34-year-olds).

Six in ten (60%) Brits feel less relaxed about their spending now vs six months ago and 28% are "a lot less" relaxed (rising to 32% of women), while just 7% feel more relaxed. As table one reveals below, one third (29%) of Brits have spent some of their savings in the last six months (£275 on average), 14% have borrowed on average £448 pm on credit cards, Klarna and personal loans and 9% have borrowed (£310 on average) from friends and family.

To mitigate the rising cost of living this winter, over a third (38%) of all workers say they will go into office to reduce their own heating bill, rising to one in two (51%) of those aged 18-34, and a fifth (21%) will shower at their workplace or their gym rather than at home (38% of 18-34). Furthermore:

- 19% will car-pool, rising to 40% of those aged 18-34
- 19% use food banks or charities for assistance this winter (35% of those aged 18-34) while 45% will cut what they donate to charity
- A third (31%) will freeze regular outgoings including insurance and 15% will try to freeze mortgage payments
- 46% will sell personal items to make money (e.g. jewellery, clothes, electronics), rising to 64% of young people aged 18-34
- 39% are likely to look to alternative ways to heat their homes and 37% will instal smarter thermostats in their homes to better control the heating
- 67% plan to only use major appliances such as washing machine/dish washers at off peak times

Nina Skero, Chief Executive at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “As the UK economy is likely already in a recession, it is very worrying to see the extent to which people are worried that their own personal circumstances will worsen further in the coming period. The fact that nearly half of Brits (45%) anticipate using all their savings to make ends meet throughout the winter indicates that the cost-of-living crisis may leave economic scarring that will last well beyond the current inflationary spike.

“This suggests that the wealth component of the Index could see further drops in the coming quarters, following what has already been a lengthy period of consistent decline since Q3 2021. The happiness measure may very well follow a similar path as worries about household finances and the necessary lifestyle adjustments leave their mark.”

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