Financial stress impacting half of UK adults

27th February 2024

Ongoing financial strain is taking an increasing toll on the health and wellbeing of the nation, with almost half of UK adults saying their mental and physical health has suffered because of their financial situation in the last year, according to new research from St. James’s Place (SJP).   

As the UK slips into recession, around half also stating they’ve been more worried about their finances this year than previously, the research highlights how money worries are impacting everything from our sleep, relationships and work and, for one in seven (15%), causing serious stress and anxiety issues. 

SJP’s Financial Health research, conducted annually among adults across the UK, shows how the impact of high inflation on mortgage and rental prices, energy costs and the general cost of living extends well beyond straining household finances.  Across the nation, 47% have found their mental health has been affected as a result, with this increasing to 66% among 18- to 34-year-olds.   

A quarter (25%) say their mood has been affected, a fifth (18%) are losing sleep), while 17% have become anxious about going out or seeing anyone else due to financial worries. More than a fifth (21%) have considered taking time off work due to the stress and 19% have found their relationship with loved ones has been affected. Worryingly, 15% have suffered from stress related conditions in the last 12 months and 13% from depression.  

SJP’s Financial Health research also shows that a worrying number of UK adults have seen their physical health deteriorate because of their financial status in the last year. Overall, 46% say their physical wellbeing has been impacted, with 18- to 34-year-olds again saying they are most affected (66%), followed by those aged between 35 and 54 (53%). Almost two in five (19%) report that financial worry and anxiety is impacting their physical appearance, resulting in matters such as hair loss, more grey hairs and an overall sense of ageing. Furthermore 19% have been forced to cook and buy cheaper, less healthy food and one in ten (10%) have suffered from weight issues in the last year.

Nearly half (49%) say they’ve been more worried about their finances this year than previously and, with the economic outlook expected to remain challenging, many are not feeling positive about the year ahead. Three in ten (31%) feel anxious, 26% feel stressed and 17% feel vulnerable about their financial situation in 2024.  

The research highlights, however, that having a financial plan in place, can ease some of these concerns and boost confidence in navigating a more difficult economic backdrop. Four in ten (41%) UK adults have a financial plan and among those that do, almost three quarters (72%) feel financially resilient, while 24% do not.  In comparison, among those with no financial plan, only half (51%) feel financially resilient whereas 38% do not.  

Alexandra Loydon, Director of Engagement and Consultancy at St. James’s Place, said “Economic conditions have been challenging over the last couple of years, with an impact that has been felt most sharply over the last 12 months on individual finances, whether it’s increases in mortgage or rental payments, high energy bills or the weekly shop. In turn, our research showed the profound and worrying impact this has had on people’s lifestyles, physical wellbeing, and mental health, with almost half of the nation suffering in some way.  

“The outlook for 2024 remains mixed, and it’s likely that households will continue to feel the financial strain. It’s therefore going to be important for people to take as many steps as they can to help with their financial situation, in order to try to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing too. Seeking advice and support and having a financial plan in place will help people to take back some control of their finances, as well as maximise their ability to build financial resilience. Speaking about finances can be a sensitive topic for many; however, it’s important people shouldn’t feel alone and are able to share their concerns, so that they can access help where they need it. ”