As we enter Mental Health Awareness Week on 9 May, surveys find the rising cost of living is triggering huge anxiety as millions face bills they are struggling to afford
The ongoing and worsening UK cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact on mental health in the UK, according to research by asset management firm BMO.
According to the firm’s survey of over 2,000 UK adults, 28% of people say the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative effect on their mental health. Chief among their concerns is the cost of housing – 38% say they are worried about rent and house prices, which are rising at a rapid rate.
A further 35% are worried about rising interest rates, while 28% are concerned about energy prices. People aged between 26 and 41 were the most likely to feel anxious over finances, with 49% of the age group saying they are worried about everyday living costs.
Ross Duncton at BMO, said: “It’s clear from our research that the recent increases in everyday costs are having a clear impact on people’s mental health.”
An additional survey from YouGov and the Center for Economics & Business Research revealed a similar lack of confidence. April 2022 research found that, on average, UK households expect to become financially worse off in the next 12 months.
Alice Haine, a personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, said: “When people struggle financially, anxiety levels can soar, with each missed bill payment only adding to the strain. In turn, when someone’s mental health is poor, finding a solution to money troubles can feel overwhelming. “
These figures throw the connection between money and mental health into sharp relief in advance of Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 9 May to Sunday 16 May 2022).
Created by the Mental Health Foundation, this annual campaign aims to improve awareness of mental health issues. The theme for 2022 is ‘loneliness,’ with the Foundation aiming to highlight how isolation impacts mental health, and what can be done about it.
Further research by LV = General Insurance and its charity partner, FamilyActionfound that men may be particularly at risk of feeling isolated.
Their recent survey found that about 81% of men hide their problems from the people closest to them, with 21% believing that showing their emotions is a ‘sign of weakness’. Some 40% of men said the rising cost of living was their single biggest worry.
Scammers take advantage
As these financial anxieties take hold, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has reported a concurrent uptick in certain types of scam.
Between January 2021 and March 2022, the number of ‘screen sharing’ scams reported to the FCA grew by 86%, accounting for losses of £ 25 million.
In these scenarios, perpetrators convinces you to share your screen over a video call app such as Zoom or Teams, or install software that lets them remotely control your computer.
The scammers say this is to help you make an investment or access a banking service, but in reality they use the ploy to steal your credentials and access your money.
With living costs on the rise, more people may be tempted to believe scammers posing as investment professionals who promise to grow their savings.
At the same time, cases of identity fraud reported to the National Fraud Database (NFD) rose by 22% in 2021. According to Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, the UK’s largest fraud database, the rising cost of living is likely to create ” a rich seam of opportunity for fraudsters. “
Financial services responses
As financial worries heighten, UK financial services providers are under pressure to factor in their customers’ mental health.
In an attempt to reach men who may be struggling, LV = GI is installing phone booths in its branded car repair garages that connect callers to FamilyLine – FamilyAction’s helpline, which offers free support and guidance as well as referring people to counseling and coaching services.
Since garages continue to employ a workforce that’s around 90% men, LV = GI and FamilyAction hope these phone booths will normalise men vocalising their problems and seeking support.
Several of the UK’s biggest banks have also taken steps to support mental health. Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland, has enrolled in the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s Mental Health Accessible Program.
This means the group has taken steps to make their services accessible to people experiencing mental health issues, through steps like reviewing its website and communications to ensure it’s easy for people to get the help they need.
Meanwhile the online-only bank, First Direct, has created a ‘money wellness hub’ – an area of its website that offers resources for handling money worries and developing healthy financial habits.