More than three-quarters of adults worry about the rising cost of living, with about half of them doing so almost every day, according to research by the Office for National Statistics.
Among adults over the age of 16 in Great Britain, the ONS said 77% reported feeling “very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living”. Of these respondents, 50% said they were worried “nearly every day”.
A separate ONS survey of the same group shows how people have changed their behavior in response, with 52% of people saying they were using less fuel such as gas and electricity at home after major cost increases, while almost half have reined in spending on food and reduced non-essential travel in order to help their finances.
The anxiety statistics, which cover the period 27 April to 22 May, highlight the mental health impact of inflation, while the other ONS survey, covering 25 May to 5 June, looked at its impact on people’s daily decisions of what to buy.
The second poll found that the number of people spending less on food shopping and essentials jumped to 41% of households from 36% in the previous fortnight, while the proportion of those buying fewer items in their food shops increased to 46% from 44%.
People have also adapted their travel plans to deal with rising costs. About 40% of those polled said they had cut back on non-essential travel in vehicles because of the cost of living crisis.
While it was not possible to show that inflation worries directly affected people’s mental health, the ONS said: “Adults who reported feeling very worried about the rising costs of living in the two weeks before interview also reported worse scores on a wide range of wellbeing measures , when compared with those who said they were not at all worried.”
There was also a strong link between people who continued to worry about the impact of Covid on their lives and the potential for rising prices to destabilise their personal finances.
Of those people who were very worried about the cost of living, 63% were also “very or somewhat worried” about Covid.
Rishi Sunak increased the government’s support for families and businesses by £15bn as part of a package of measures announced last month.
However, the increase in fuel costs, which have pushed the price of diesel to above £2 a liter in motorway service stations, and rising prices of food and energy, which pushed the consumer prices index to 9% in April, has led to calls for the government to offer further subsidies and tax cuts.
Anti-poverty charities and business leaders have called for low-income families to receive larger cash payouts to offset rising prices.
The ONS anxiety survey showed better-off Britons were greatly immune to the impact of inflation, while poorer people were much more likely to say they were very worried.
Only 12% of adults who earned more than £50,000 said they were very worried compared with 31% with a personal income of £10,000 or less.
Disabled people and parents with young children were among the groups to be most concerned about higher costs of food, energy and petrol. More than 80% of disabled people said they were worried and 90% of those with dependent children.