Over 20 million UK workers suffering mental health strain due to cost-of-living crisis and NHS delays – The Exeter 

Over 20 million UK workers suffering mental health strain due to cost-of-living crisis and NHS delays – The Exeter 
Over 20 million UK workers suffering mental health strain due to cost-of-living crisis and NHS delays – The Exeter 

Karen Wood


Head of Healthcare Distribution

The Exeter’s Health and Financial Fears Report reveals how prolonged waiting times for public healthcare services and continued cost of living challenges are leading to an increase in the number of UK workers reporting a decline in their mental health. 

In the report, two-thirds (68%) of UK workers reported adverse effects on their mental health due to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and difficulties in accessing public health services. With 30.2 million payrolled employees in the UK as of November 20231, the figures noted in the report data indicate that over 20 million individuals are experiencing an adverse impact on their mental health. 

Cost-of-Living crisis and NHS delays 

According to the research, the cost-of-living crisis is the predominant factor impacting mental health, with 30% of workers citing it as a key reason for stress. In contrast, 8% stated accessing public health services as the main factor impacting their mental health. Notably, 30% reported that both of these factors had a combined negative impact on their mental wellbeing. 

The effect of these stressors varies significantly across age groups. Among younger workers aged 18-24, over three-quarters (76%) reported an impact on their mental health. In comparison, only 29% of workers aged 65 and above reported similar problems, suggesting that younger workers are more susceptible to today's economic and healthcare challenges. 

Additionally, the research found a notable gender gap, with women more frequently reporting mental health impacts due to the cost-of-living crisis and difficulties accessing public health services, at 32%, compared to 27% of men. 

Financial anxiety deepens among workers 

Further exacerbating the situation, the report indicates that only 13% of UK workers have been able to maintain their spending habits despite rising costs, a decline from 19% in 2022. This shift is reflective of a rise in financial anxiety – now considered the leading cause of stress among UK adults2. 

Karen Woodley, Head of Healthcare Distribution at The Exeter, commented:  

“We are experiencing a prolonged period of financial uncertainty which is being felt more widely amongst UK workers. People are also increasingly worried about meeting their core financial responsibilities; being able to pay their rent or mortgage and putting food on the table. It’s therefore unsurprising that these pressures are having a negative impact on our mental health.

As a society, we are more conscious than ever before about the importance of mental wellbeing and the role it plays in helping us maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, the current challenges faced by health services means that support for those living with mental health conditions is unlikely to be available immediately.

Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, we are seeing an unprecedented demand for private healthcare in the UK as workers look for alternative ways of accessing the support they need. Not only can health insurance policies cover treatment for mental health conditions as part of the core product, but they can also provide immediate access to services through a comprehensive added value benefits offering. This holistic approach ensures that policyholders have access to a range of timely support to help manage their mental health and wellbeing.” 

The full report can be viewed here.  


Notes to Editors 


1 - ons.gov.uk
2 - mentalhealth.org.uk


Data in this report was gathered as part of The Exeter's Health and Financial Fears of UK Workers 2023 research, which surveyed 2,000 employed adults aged over 18 in the UK between the 1st and 5th June 2023. For some charts, respondents who replied, ‘Don’t know', 'None of the above' or ‘Prefer not to say’ have been removed to aid clarity, however these percentages are still factored into the final figures. 

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About The Exeter   

The Exeter is a leading protection and healthcare insurer who have been supporting UK families in the event of ill health or injury since 1888. 

Formerly known as the Exeter Friendly Society and Pioneer Friendly Society, The Exeter is a mutual friendly society. This means it’s owned by members and run for their benefit, rather than shareholders.  

The Exeter is a trading name of Exeter Friendly Society Limited, which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Register number 205309) and is incorporated under the Friendly Societies Act 1992 Register No. 91F with its registered office at Lakeside House, Emperor Way, Exeter, England EX1 3FD.