Society Watch 2023: The Price We Pay - the social impact of the cost of living crisis

The Society Watch series provides a snapshot of what life is like for people in Britain today.
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  • Authors:
    Richard Brown
    Yasmin Begum
    Charles Wilson
  • Publishing date:
    6 July 2023

Drawing upon new and existing research, including fresh findings from the NatCen Panel, this research explores how the cost of living crisis has impacted different groups in society, their spending patterns, mental health and what it might mean for future generations.


Society Watch 2023 provides a clearer picture of how society has been impacted by the second nationwide crisis in three years. These findings shine a light on the state of the nation and provide an indication of future social risks that may require action in years to come:

  • Poverty rates are higher for households with children, without anyone in work, in rented accommodation, and which include a disabled person, and are particularly high for Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black minority ethnic groups
  • Nearly 40% of Black people and 50% of people ‘finding it very difficult’ to make ends meet were in arrears with household bills
  • While some people saved money during the pandemic, low financial resilience increased from 23 to 24 per cent of adults during the course of the pandemic
  • People are buying less healthy food, eating out less, and cutting back on their social lives, according to NatCen Panel data, with men more likely to be cutting back than women in many cases
  • People ‘finding it very difficult’ to make ends meet are nearly 35 times more likely to have household bills arrears than those ‘living comfortably
  • Almost two thirds of NatCen Panel participants have cut back on savings, with young middle-aged people (30- to 49-year olds) and Black people particularly likely to be doing so
  • 90% of NatCen Panel participants have taken measures to reduce heating use by January 2023
  • 40% of participants were very worried about money, with men typically more worried than women, and rates of worry about mental health and work-life balance remained significantly higher than before the pandemic.


In January 2023 the probability-based NatCen Panel conducted a survey of a representative sample of 2,415 adults (18+) about the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. The NatCen Panel comprises people who were originally interviewed in probability-based surveys such as NatCen's annual British Social Attitudes survey, and who have agreed to answer occasional follow-up surveys either online or on the phone.