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With the price of gold reaching an all-time high in April 2024, the annual inflation rate in the UK breaking a 41-year record in October 2022, and the Consumer Prices Index rising by 3.8% from 12 months to March 2024, it’s no surprise that people are concerned about the rising costs of living. 

But who’s talking the most about these rising costs, the current financial situation, government measures, and what they’re giving up to stay afloat? 

To find out, we assessed data from Polly that surveyed 150,049 people in the UK for 12 months, ending on May 9, 2024. The data examines who was talking about specific cost of living topics on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and X and gives a clear idea about how people are coping in the current economic climate.

We look at this and so much more in our 2024 cost of living statistics round-up.

Index

  1. 47% of UK citizens are struggling financially 
  2. Rent/Mortgage increases affect 40.4% of people
  3. Nearly 40% forego groceries to make ends meet
  4. 39.8% want an increase in minimum wage 
  5. Over 65s suffer the most from cost of living increases
  6. Women hit hardest by the rising cost of living 
  7. About the data

47% of UK citizens are struggling financially 

Concerns about struggling financially clearly top discussions about money matters. The graph below reveals Polly’s data about UK citizens’ current financial situation.

Although energy prices fell in April 2023, they remain well above the pre-energy crisis level. There’s also no respite for food and drink inflation, which is predicted to reach between 0.3% and 2.3% by the end of the year. Car insurance premiums have also skyrocketed 12%, and mortgages have increased by more than £3,000 annually for a household with an average mortgage of £130,000. It’s no wonder that people who say they are struggling financially account for nearly half of all those surveyed.

Struggling financially clocks up engagement levels of 47%, a whopping 32.4% more than the next most engaged topic of living paycheck to paycheck. 14.6% of UK citizens are experiencing this worrying way of life as it’s becoming a potentially realistic financial situation for many. 

On the subject of having money for the future, only 9.6% of those surveyed are investing for retirement. Although pension coverage has increased in recent years, 2 in 5 working-age people in the UK are not saving enough for retirement. And with one in three working-age families failing to have basic savings of at least £1,000, it’s good to see that at least a small percentage is able to save, racking up engagement levels of 9.6% while being in debt sits at a relatively low 8.4%.

The lowest levels of engagement were those who say they’re in a financially secure situation at 5.2%, and 4.2% say that their financial situation is currently stable. Based on the current economic factors, these low figures are hardly unexpected.

Rent/Mortgage increases affect 40.4% of people

With interest rates on the rise and inflation climbing, household expenses are a major concern. This graph from Polly shows which household expenses have increased the most. 

We’ve seen how much mortgages have increased in the UK, but rent is on the rise, too. The average private rent increased by 9.0% from February 2023 to 2024. In line with this is the 40.4% engagement level of people discussing how rent and mortgages are their most increased household expenses. Following this is healthcare at 19%, which indicates a rise in the private sector spending as the NHS is free for citizens. 

With climate change, inflation, and the energy crisis all causing havoc with groceries and utilities, these two expenses have also risen greatly and affected 15.5% and 13.2%, respectively. The lowest engagement levels were for transportation, with only 12% saying they were affected by increases. This is interesting when considering the rising cost of already-expensive train prices in the UK, but the other expenses seem to take priority in online conversations. 

Nearly 40% forego groceries to make ends meet

Polly’s data tracked the engagement levels of which services people were foregoing and the results are below. Let’s unpack them further. 

These results have some interesting correlations with the household expenses most increased, with transport once again coming in with the lowest levels, in this case of 5.8%. Utilities were also second last at 7.1%, and then we see some changes.

Rather than topping the engagement levels, housing comes in third from the top at 22.5%. In the UK, there’s been a growing trend of young people living at home into their adult years or moving back in due to rising costs. A study by the Office for National Statistics confirms this trend, revealing that around 22.4% of families have an adult child living with them, a figure that’s almost doubled in the last decade.

Sadly, foregoing education is one of the most foregone services, with 25.2% cutting it from their budgets. This is a sign of the high cost of higher education versus the rising costs of living. Groceries are topping the list of services foregone, with 39.4% saying they had to cut back. Cutting back on foodstuffs and looking for cheaper alternatives has long been a way of economising, so it makes sense that large numbers of people are doing so now. 

39.8% want an increase in the minimum wage 

In tough times, government support always comes under scrutiny. Here’s what Polly’s data says about what UK citizens are saying about how the government can lend a hand. 

The annual minimum wage increase took effect in April 2024, increasing the hourly rate for adults by 9.8% to £11.44. This is clearly still a major talking point, as engagement levels were at their highest in this part of the survey, at 39.8%. Investing in job creation wasn’t far behind, at 35.9%, painting a very real picture of people’s expectations of where government support is most needed.

Promoting financial literacy and education is another popular topic, with 10.1% engagement, highlighting the need for a greater focus on practical subjects. This is backed up by a study that revealed that almost 73% of the country falls below the benchmark for financial knowledge. 

Expanding social welfare programs, providing affordable housing, and implementing rent control also got some people talking, with engagement levels at 7.1%, 3.5%, and 2.5%, respectively. Minimal engagement on the topic of improving public transportation (0.9%) and supporting small businesses (0.2%) was recorded, too, but it seems these are the areas people are least vocal about government support being needed – at least online. 

Over 65s suffer the most from cost of living increases

In the graph below, Polly’s data reveals which age groups are the hardest hit by the rising cost of living in the UK. Here’s what the statistics say.

A recent BBC news article reports that pension income needed for retirement has jumped by £8,000 due to the rising cost of living and the expectation of older family members to support younger ones. It makes sense then that the rising cost of living affects those over retirement age in the 65+ bracket (34.2%) the most. The 55-64 age group follows at 20.8%, and thereafter are those between 45 and 54, at 19.1%.

Although the average age of a first-time homeowner in the UK was between 31 and 34, this age group seems least affected by the rising costs of living. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 have engagement levels of only 6.8%. In contrast, those 25 and younger have engagement levels of 8.8%, and the 35-44 age group is 10.3%. There could be many reasons for this, but it is interesting that there is a difference between the engagement statistics and those saying they are affected not reflecting the same interest as those making the biggest purchases of their lives. 

Women hit hardest by the rising cost of living 

According to Polly’s data, women are far more affected by the rising cost of living than men. Let’s take a closer look at what the graph below reveals.

With a whopping 65.6% engagement levels, women almost double the engagement levels of men, who rack up only 34.4%. It’s clear that this gender is far more affected by the rising costs of living and that it’s hitting women far harder than men. However, this isn’t too surprising when you consider that research shows that 45% of women feel that they are financially worse off compared to a year ago. This is in contrast to 35% of men. 

Polly’s data mirrors this closely, with engagement levels reflecting similar numbers.

Overall, the cost of living continues to be a pertinent topic of discussion in the UK, and these statistics paint an interesting picture of the current landscape and what the future may hold. 

About the data

The data was sourced from Polly, who created independent samples of 150,049 people from X, Reddit, and TikTok in the UK over a year, up until 9 May 2024. Responses were collected and analyzed to produce outcomes within a 90% confidence interval and 5% margin of error. Engagement estimated how many people in the location were participating. 

Demographics were determined using many features, including name, location, and self-disclosed description. Privacy was preserved using k-anonymity and differential privacy. Results are based on what people describe online — questions were not posed to the people in the sample.

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