Cost of living: Charity warns of mental health pandemic

The cost-of-living crisis is leaving people in Northern Ireland less able to do things that support good mental health, a charity has warned.

The Mental Health Foundation said concerns over finances are negatively impacting people’s quality of life.

In a survey of 1,498 people, 27% of adults reported poorer quality sleep, while 22% said they meet family and friends less often.

It warned of a “new mental health pandemic in the making”.

Karen Hall, who leads the charity in Northern Ireland, said financial concerns drive people to engage less in healthy behaviours that support good mental health.

She said: “We need good quality sleep. We need to be able to do things we enjoy. We need exercise. We need to be able to spend time with the people we love.

“The reductions in these healthy behaviours are red flags that can indicate more serious mental health problems developing. 

“Poverty and financial stress are rising, and the number of people experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression is likely to rise.”

Less exercise

The poll, commissioned by the charity and conducted by Lucid Talk, also found that due to concerns over their financial situation 12% of adults said they also exercised less.

Previously, surveys from the charity reported that 44% of adults in Northern Ireland were feeling anxious, 23% feeling angry/frustrated, and 9% feeling hopeless about their financial circumstances.

The charity has published a set of recommendations for the devolved governments of the UK calling for financial support schemes to be made available to all who need them to prevent people from experiencing poverty and financial stress.

It also called for government departments to assess the mental health impact of decisions that address the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Hall said: “We need our governments to do more to alleviate the negative impacts of the cost-of-living crisis and treat it as the public mental health emergency that it is, including increasing funding for community support organisations and ensuring there is financial support for those who need it.”