Financial anxiety: survey reveals impact on women's health

6th July, 2022 • 8 min read

Women's wellbeing plunges as cost of living rises.

Eight out of 10 women we polled said their physical and mental health has been hit by the cost of living crisis – read on for a deep dive into how the squeeze is affecting women’s health

Women’s health and rising prices

The cost of living crisis could lead to a women's health crisis. Rapidly increasing costs are impacting women’s sleep, fitness and overall wellbeing, reveals data from a new Healthily survey of 1,700 women aged 25 to 50 from both the UK and the USA.

Here’s what we found.

8 out of 10 say financial anxiety keeping them awake at night

Our survey reveals women are surviving – not thriving – through the crisis. When it comes to staying healthy and well, there are some well-documented golden rules to live by.

Sleeping deeply
and taking some form of
eating a balanced diet
, making time for self-care,
minimising stress
and keeping up with healthcare and any medications are all vital. Yet our survey indicates all of these health sustaining variables are being hit as living costs escalate.

Financial anxiety and stress

Money worries and fears about the cost of living are leading to greater stress levels in more than three quarters of women (UK 86%, USA 83%), which is having a knock-on effect on sleep and diet. Almost half find themselves comfort eating (UK 43%, USA 41%).

“Very high numbers (86% in the UK and 83% in the US) said worries about money were leading to higher stress levels, which is concerning because stress can cause mental health and sleep problems,” explains Chief medical officer at Healthily, Professor Baker. “In both countries more than two thirds said they were lying awake worrying about the cost of living. We know lack of sleep can affect blood pressure and heart health as well making it harder to manage a healthy lifestyle and keep weight under control,” she adds.

Essential treatment put off because of financial worries

“Perhaps most worrying is that price rises are forcing women to make decisions that are potentially detrimental to their long term health and happiness,” says Professor Maureen Baker. In the UK 11% are delaying starting a family, in the US the figure rises to 17%. And when it comes to health essentials, like dental health in both countries over half (55%) are putting off treatment. “Cutting back on dental care could be the tip of the iceberg, our survey also revealed that 17% in the UK and 33% in the US are delaying going for medical treatment due to worries about missing work opportunities or reduced pay,” adds Professor Baker. When it comes to health ‘extras’ in the UK 24% have reduced or cut out costs on insurance and critical illness cover (19% in the US).

More than 80% say food prices affecting their health

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is showing global food prices are at an all-time high and The Bank of England is estimating inflation could hit double digits by the end of the year.

In both the UK and the USA, more than 80% of the women questioned felt food price rises have affected their physical and mental health (UK 83%, USA 86%).

The survey found that health is being affected as women skip meals, and choose to eat less fresh food to save money. Women are also opting to shop at ‘budget’ supermarkets in a bid to cut costs.

  • 40% have skipped meals to save money – a figure that again rises in America, to almost half (49%) of the women we spoke to
  • in the UK, 9% have turned to food banks for help, while in the US this is a worrying 40%

“It’s clear that skipping meals will have a very direct effect on women’s health including malnutrition and simply not having enough energy to self-care and look after their family,” says Professor Baker.

Half of women cutting back on gym subs

Half of women (UK 51%, US 46%) have also cut their spending on fitness but this isn’t necessarily all negative, as significant numbers in both countries say they’ll be

much more and doing
home workouts
in a bid to save money.

Holidays, hair dos and beauty treatments all cut back

Holidays and time to rest and relax are also being reigned in but more so in the US where 60% of the women we surveyed have cancelled a break away entirely - compared to 31% in the UK.

Health and beauty treats are also being sidelined, with three quarters in both countries (UK 77%, USA 70%) reducing their spend on hair and beauty products and treatments. An even higher figure are cutting back on luxuries and treats for themselves (UK 86%, USA 81%).

Worried about money

Similar numbers also felt both their physical and mental wellbeing has been impacted by the soaring cost of fuel (UK 79%, USA 81%), rent (UK 45%, USA 60%) and public transport (UK 25%, 18% USA). Almost two thirds (60%) of UK women said the cost of living crisis has already had a negative impact on their health.

Professor Maureen Baker, says the survey reveals just how deep the cost of living crisis is biting in both the US and the UK. “It’s clear that women are having to make very hard choices about affording the basics such as food, fuel and rent and these could adversely affect their long term health,” she says.

Help from Healthily

If cost of living is impacting your health, here are some tips from our medical team to keep your health high in your priorities when cash is low.

Painkillers and at-home medicine

In our survey around half of both UK and US respondents (59% UK and 48% US) said they were switching to own brand medicines for things like headaches. “This is a good idea,” says Dr Ann Nainan. “To reassure yourself just check the label for active ingredients - these are the ones that matter,” she adds.

Keeping fit on a budget

Cutting out the gym could mean you become more active in your day to day. “I often recommend walking as a good way for patients who need to lose weight or optimise health to get started on a fitness journey,” says Dr Ann Nainan. “The government recommendation is to be active every day adding up to 150 minutes over a week. Walking to and from work or on a school run may be all you need to do.”

Healthy eating

“If you’ve bought frozen food because it’s cheaper, that’s fine. It’s still packed with nutrients and you still use frozen fruit or veg to cook from scratch. Batch cooking saves money and is healthier than buying ready-meals or processed food (a false economy in health terms),’ suggests Dr Ann Nainan.

Help sleeping

“II regularly see patients who are finding it hard to sleep,” says Dr Ann Nainan. “Often worrying about money or general day-to-day stress is at the root of it. To manage sleeping why not try out basic sleep hygiene routine, highlighted in our medically-verified

sleep hub
,’ she adds.

Find more information on how to stay healthy during the cost of living crisis with our

complete Guide

UK – cost of living impact on women: key facts

  • Money worries and mental health are a concern for 86% of those surveyed and 15% have sought professional help for their anxiety
  • 55% are delaying dental care and 21% are making medications last longer
  • 43% have reported they are ‘comfort eating’
  • 15% are drinking more alcohol and 10% are smoking more – but 19% have stopped buying booze in their weekly shop
  • more than half (51%) have cancelled spending on fitness (gym membership, personal training or fitness events)
  • two thirds (63%) say worrying about cost of living keeping them awake at night
  • 60% of UK women say the cost of living crisis has already had a negative impact on their health
  • 83% say food price rises have affected their physical and mental health
  • 79% say fuel price rises have affected their physical and mental health
  • 55% have switched supermarkets (opting for ‘budget’ supermarkets) and the same number are buying frozen instead of fresh food
  • 86% have reduced spend on self-care - luxury goods and treats

USA – cost of living impact on women: key facts

  • 48% of American women feel rising costs have already had a negative impact on their health
  • more than 3 quarters (83%) worrying about the cost of living has made them feel more stressed and anxious
  • 86% say food price rises have affected their physical and mental health
  • 81% say fuel price rises have affected their physical and mental health
  • 20% are drinking more alcohol
  • 53% are buying frozen instead of fresh food
  • Luxury goods are the first to go in a cost of living crisis - 81% have reduced spend on treats and gifts and life’s little luxuries

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.