On a recent commute, I read with interest that households are now more worried about the rising cost of living than they are about their health. According to data from uSwitch released in the build-up to the budget next week, more than half of households (55%) said that their biggest concern was the cost of living, compared with less than a third (29%) who saw their health as their main priority.
This is perhaps not surprising when you look at how costs have risen. The same uSwitch briefing also revealed that, while wages have increased by an average of just 6% over the last 5 years, food bills have increased by 17%, gas bills by a staggering 52% and electricity bills by 32%. The only notable reduction in costs over this period was for broadband services.
But is the cost of living really more important than our health? Have we put financial concerns before our health and wellbeing? It seems there are a number of factors at play….
Current economic climate: There is little sign of economic recovery from the current downturn. High unemployment levels, fears of redundancy and pay freezes have resulted in the average Brit watching their wallet more closely than ever.
Increased life expectancy: We’re living longer than ever before, so maybe we have less to worry about as far as our health is concerned? In 2008, life expectancy for males was 77.6 and 81.7 years for females; the highest ever levels recorded. With improved longevity, it’s possible we’ve become somewhat complacent.
Better survival rates: We are also more likely to survive what may have previously been a terminal illness. For example, Cancer Research UK have reported ten-year survival rates for almost all cancers have improved significantly.
Our health and our finances may be more closely related than we think, and academic studies agree. Research suggests that good health has a positive effect on the economy (The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: A Production Function Approach Bloom, Canning & Sevilla, 2003 and Links between ill health and regional economic performance: evidence from Swedish longitudinal data, Andersson & Subramanian, 2010). But does an underperforming economy have the reverse effect? If nothing else, if it means that we are prioritising our finances over our wellbeing then it would seem it does.