Recession-hit Brits feel increasing bite of the ‘health crunch'
With the UK dipping back into recession and food inflation on the rise, new data from PruHealth, the insurer that rewards healthy behaviour, finds the continuing rise in cost of living is meaning 10.6 million Brits are not eating as healthily as they would like to and over half (52%) believe their health has suffered as a result of the recession. The study which ran at the start of the financial downturn in 2008 and again this year, highlights the nation's health is sinking further into the doldrums in terms of its eating habits.
The study highlights how the diet of the nation has clearly been affected by the economic climate. Over the last four years 75% of Brits have changed their eating and shopping habits and 85% of these stated the recession and or rising food prices as the cause for the change.
The ‘five-a-day' mantra is one of the most high profile Government health campaigns, but the number of Brits struggling to reach the recommended target has increased by 26%. Three fifths (59%) today admit they are currently finding it a challenge compared to 47% at the start of the recession in 2008
More than two thirds (68%) of Brits say healthier foods tend to be more expensive and it would appear Brits are trying to save the pennies where possible with one in six (16%) buying as much as they can that is ‘reduced to clear' and one in ten (11%) only buying foods that are on special offer. Worryingly, around one in four (24%) Brits say they regularly take vitamin supplements because they are unable to eat as healthily as they like or to supplement their diet.
Parents take the biggest hit on health
Naturally most parents want to put their children's health first and ensure they have a nutritionally balanced diet, but almost one in five (18%) are doing this at the expense of their own health. One in ten (9%) are even skipping meals so their children eat well. It is an interesting shift from four years ago when many parents were turning to cheaper, frozen and convenience food options (19%) and buying less fruit and vegetables (12%) as they tightened the purse strings. In 2012 this trend has lessened (10% and 8%, respectively) and instead parents are taking the hit personally.
Consumers are 19% less likely to believe their health is fairly or very good with only 56% stating this compared to 69% in 2008. Similarly, in order to improve their overall health, people were more than twice as likely to improve their diet and eat healthier foods four years ago with 55% saying they were taking this measure compared to just 25% now
Top 10 changes to Brits' shopping and eating habits in the last four years
1. I am cutting down on luxury food items - 34%
2. I try to buy shop-branded foods to keep costs down - 22%
2. I am cutting down on the overall amount of food I buy - 22%
3. I try to buy as much as I can in the 'reduced to clear' section - 16%
3. I am cutting down on meat as it is too expensive - 16%
4. I am cutting down on quality produce such organic/free range food - 14%
5. I now do my shopping in a cheaper supermarket - 13%
6. I only buy food that are on special offer - 11%
7. I am buying more convenience/frozen food - 10%
8. I am buying more tinned food as it is cheaper and lasts longer - 9%
9. I only buy fruit and vegetables / healthy foods that are on special offer - 8%
10. I am cutting down on fruit and vegetables - 7%
But positive changes in exercising overall
Three times more people have cancelled their gym membership since the start of the recession with 5% cancelling in 2008 compared to 16%. However, whilst in 2008 a third (32%) of Brits stated cost as a barrier to exercising, in 2012 this has dropped to 24%. Brits are getting savvier and finding free ways of working out and taking regular exercise - today more than a quarter (27%) are focusing on free forms of exercise such as walking and running, compared to just 14% in 2008. Almost a third of Brits (32%) recognise that living a physically healthy lifestyle is good for their mental health and getting through the recession (28%).
Dr Dawn Richards, Head of Clinical Service at PruHealth, commented: "We can clearly see how people's healthy eating habits have been affected with the picture having got significantly worse since the start of the economic downturn. People are only too well aware of the need to eat healthily, but financial constraints are making it difficult, resulting in people's health being negatively affected. On the plus side it is great to see that Brits are getting savvier and recognising it doesn't have to cost a lot to exercise. Taking the stairs and hopping off the bus a stop early all helps. The key learning from this research is that where there is choice Brits seem to be making the right ones, but where there isn't the nation remains struggling."