Millie Mitchell discusses three ways that the cost of living crisis is affecting the health of Londoners.
But what does the current cost of living crisis mean for the health of London’s population?
Cutting back on sport and exercise
With inflation at a 41-year high, the cost of essential goods are soaring. So it is no surprise that many people are having to look for ways to cut back on their spending.
From gym memberships and club subscriptions to sportswear and trainers, participating in sport and exercise often comes at a price.
A recent survey from London Sport found that 45 per cent of Londoners report that they are doing less sport or exercise because of the associated costs. The inflated costs of living in London means that this figure is much higher than the UK average of 27 per cent of adults.
Exercising doesn’t have to cost a lot. Walking or running in one of London’s 3,000 parks is one of the most budget friendly forms of exercise. But with winter closing in and the city getting dark earlier, many Londoners may not feel safe outside in the evenings. This is particularly true for women, of whom 82 per cent report feeling unsafe in parks after dark.
Being active is a hugely important determinant of overall health. This winter, Londoners need better access to low-cost and safe options for participating in sports and exercise.
Impacts of cold homes
As Zarin covered in a previous blog, for many Londoners a warm home is not a guarantee this winter. But if people in London are unable to heat their homes, this can have serious consequences on their physical health.
Cold homes can diminish people’s resistance to respiratory diseases, or even increase blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease. People with existing health conditions are especially vulnerable, such as people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia who may suffer from increased confusion in homes with cold temperatures.
Poorly heated homes are also at greater risk of developing condensation, mould or damp – an issue that already effects almost 1 in 5 Londoners.
Mould and damp problems are even more likely in older buildings because they are often inadequately insulated. In London, around 20 per cent of all housing stock pre-dates 1900 and would have been constructed using uninsulated, solid wall techniques.
Increased mould and damp in Londoners’ homes pose significant health risks, particularly for children. For example, an estimated 10-15 per cent of new cases of childhood asthma across Europe can already be attributed to mould and damp issues in the home.
It is not just the physical health of Londoners that is at risk during the cost of living crisis, but mental health too.
Mental health problems already affect 1 in 4 people in England each year but the higher cost of living will be causing many people to worry about how they will be able to make ends meet.
A recent survey found that 54 per cent of UK adults say they have felt anxious as a result of higher prices, with 21 per cent reporting that they have felt unable to cope.
Moreover, if people in London are being less active, they won’t be able to receive the mental health benefits of exercise such as reduced stress or improved self-esteem. Meanwhile, living in a cold home can double the likelihood that an adult reports severe mental distress, even if they have not previously experienced mental health problems.
This compounding of health effects paints a worrying picture, especially for the most vulnerable people in London this winter.
The health implications of the cost of living crisis could have lasting effects into the future, even when the economic situation has recovered.
That’s why policymakers must take seriously the need for immediate help for vulnerable Londoners and not focus only on economic growth.
Read more from Centre for London’s cost of living crisis blog series: