Society Watch

Providing a snapshot of what life is like for people in Britain today.

In 2020, coinciding with its 50th anniversary, the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) launched the first in its series of annual Society Watch reports, drawing together new and existing research from across multiple sources and organisations to shed light on people's lives and our society. The aim of these reports is to provide a useful snapshot of what life is like for people in the UK today. 

This research focuses on a particularly hot topic, examining key themes from the evidence presented in more detail. These reports are presented at an open event, to provide further insights and discussion. Previous research has covered mental health, the social legacy of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

  • Previous Society Watch events have been kindly sponsored by UKRI/Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the British Academy and the Nuffield Foundation. 
  • We welcome any funding interest for our future reports and events. For more information, please get in touch at
  • A key outcome of Society Watch is the engagement and impact we achieve with both policy stakeholders and the media. 
  • The findings of our previous reports were featured in the media, most notably on BBC's Newsnight, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and ITV Peston. 

The Price We Pay - the social impact of the cost of living crisis 

Our Society Watch 2023 report aimed to provide a clearer picture of how the cost of living crisis is impacting different groups in society, exploring their spending patterns, impact on mental health and what it means for future generations. 

Key findings include: 

  • Poverty rates rose for households with children, without anyone in work, in rented accomodations, 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.
  • 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.

Key statistics from our cost of living report (2023)

Read the report
of NatCen Panel participants have taken measures to reduce heating use by January 2023
of participants were very worried about money, with men typically more worried than women
of children were living in households experiencing material deprivation in 2021/22.
million people were living in households that had made use of a food bank over the previous 12 months (2021/22)