Cost-of-living crisis impacts New Zealanders' wellbeing – report

Cost-of-living crisis impacts New Zealanders' wellbeing – report | Insurance Business New Zealand

Cost-of-living crisis impacts New Zealanders' wellbeing – report

As global economic pressures continue to rise, a new report by Southern Cross revealed that the cost-of-living crisis has also impacted the physical and mental wellbeing of New Zealanders.

According to the latest Southern Cross Healthy Futures Report, the rising cost of living has led to health and wellbeing behaviour changes among New Zealanders. Among such changes are interruptions to sleep, exercise, and eating habits.

“While our inaugural Healthy Futures Report in 2020 found that the influences on New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing were increasingly varied, this latest research shows how firmly global economic pressures are trickling down to impact so many parts of our lives,” said Stephen Child, chief medical officer of Southern Cross’ insurances arm.

Southern Cross, along with research partner Kantar, spoke to more than 5,000 New Zealanders for the biennial study. Results showed that 93% of respondents ranked the cost of living as their highest concern. Additionally, 79% of respondents considered healthy food to be expensive and 64% said they plan meals in advance. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents revealed that they’re sleeping less, with an average of 6.94 hours per night. 

“The cost of living, combined with the stress and anxiety that comes from such financial uncertainty, influences people’s nutrition choices, the amount of sleep we get, and finding the motivation or energy for exercise,” Child said. “Of course, this then affects physical health, which in turn further impacts mental health or vice versa – and so a detrimental wellbeing cycle is set in motion that can be difficult to bring back to equilibrium. As a nation, these results are concerning.”

Child added that certain demographics feel the pressure of rising prices more than others. He noted that retirees and people living with disability are among the most vulnerable to financial stresses, along with university students, young families, and caregivers.

The widespread impact of the cost-of-living crisis could also be seen in New Zealanders’ approach to their health, with 34% of respondents saying that cost is the biggest barrier to their ability to access healthcare services. This was especially true for university students at 59%.

“Southern Cross has been caring for New Zealanders for more than 60 years and we believe they should have ongoing access to health and wellbeing options for themselves and their whanau,” Child said. “We hope that shining a light on the issues that matter most to New Zealanders, and offering relevant health and wellbeing support, will help people to feel empowered amidst the ongoing financial and health challenges facing our communities.”