Survey finds mental well-being declining in New Zealand as cost of living crisis 'trickling down to impact so many parts of our lives'

The proportion of people who say their emotional well-being is being impacted by global events is on the rise.
The proportion of people who say their emotional well-being is being impacted by global events is on the rise. Photo credit: Getty Images

Sharply rising living costs and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a decline in mental well-being in New Zealand, a new survey shows.

Southern Cross/Kantar's second Healthy Futures Report - a survey of 2000 people - was conducted in March when the Omicron variant of COVID-19 started to tighten its grip on New Zealand.

The proportion of people who said their emotional wellbeing was being impacted by global events was up from 50 percent in 2020 to 63 percent this year.

More people were also listing the cost of living as their highest concern - up 7 percent to 93 percent.

"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 Southern Cross insurance chief medical officer Stephen Child.

The survey also found 57 percent of people were worried about not having enough money to support their families.

Sixty-three percent had concerns about whether children would be able to cope with life's pressures - up 8 percent since 2020.

The survey also found more than half of people agreed they weren't getting enough sleep, averaging just under seven hours per night.

Dr Child said the stress and anxiety from financial uncertainty caused by the cost of living "influences people's nutrition choices, the amount of sleep we get and finding the motivation or energy for exercise".

An increase was also seen in the proportion of people who thought healthy food was too expensive (up 7 percent to 79 percent) while there was a decline in the most popular forms of physical activities such as gym memberships and team sports (down 2 and 3 percent respectively).

"Certain demographics are feeling the pinch more than others," Dr Child said. "People living with disability or illness are most likely to be concerned about their financial situation which leads to worries about being able to afford to be healthy and having their sleep disrupted by anxiety or stress. 

"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."