UK cost-of-living crisis leading to more anxiety, health problems

2022-10-23 19:54:49
UK cost-of-living crisis leading to more anxiety, health problems

Some doctors in England say the toll of this year's cost-of-living crisis has been apparent in the health issues facing some of their patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have contributed to global inflation, driving up the price of food, energy bills, and other basics. As a result, many people are struggling to feed their families and heat their homes.

Dr. Hina Shahid, a general practitioner in London, told Insider she'd seen a rise in the number of patients seeking medical help over the past couple of years but it had become "a lot more acute" over the past 12 months.

Shahid said people might come to her because of mental illness or other medical problems but "digging deeper it then transpires that a lot of it is rooted in the stress around cost of living, and paying bills and debt."

Older people switch heating off

One group most at risk is older people, according to Shahid, who runs a clinic catering to them. Even last year — when UK energy bills were generally cheaper than they are now — she saw lots of older patients who wouldn't switch the heating on. One man developed a serious chest infection because he lived in a cold, damp apartment, she said.

"If people are not living in the right conditions, then that is the biggest health risk that they can face," Shahid said.

When patients come in, they can express a mixture of anger, frustration, depression, and helplessness, Shahid said. "It makes me really fearful about what's going to happen moving forward when we have these hikes in energy prices."

'The pressure of life'

Dr. Bob Gill, a GP in the southeastern English county of Kent, agreed that he'd seen a jump in patients struggling as a result of their financial situation. Usually, they've experienced a difference in mood or have felt tired and want a medical explanation for it, he told Insider.

"They don't want to admit to themselves that it's the pressure of life that's getting to them," he said.

People end up looking for antidepressants or sedatives to help them cope with the pressure, Gill said. One patient, who was self-employed, came in with self-inflicted facial wounds after an unpaid bill "tipped him over the edge," he said.

Gill said that in his experience men were less likely to book doctor's appointments, something he attributed to a pressure not to acknowledge a need for help.

"There's this element of we're all told to be resilient," he said. "What that ends up doing is saying, well it's not society, it's not external problems, it's because you are not resilient. So you further internalize some of the turmoil and you don't reach out for help."

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