How the cost of living is impacting people with diabetes, and the long term impact this will have on the UK's health
In November 2022, we conducted a survey of 6,490 people across the UK living with any form of diabetes, or who have been told they are at high-risk of developing type 2 diabetes/received a diagnosis of non-diabetic hyperglycaemia (NDH). This survey was a chance to hear how the cost of living is impacting people with and at risk of diabetes, and what effect this is having on how people are managing their diabetes or risk of developing diabetes.
We have used this survey to inform a policy report showing the cutbacks and sacrifices that people with and at risk of diabetes are having to make, and how this is making it harder for people to manage their condition right now.
1. The rising cost of essentials is forcing people to cut back on food and energy in ways which negatively impact how they manage their diabetes.
- 77% say that the rising cost of living is negatively impacting how they manage their diabetes or risk of diabetes.
- 66% have cut back on essentials like food or energy, or have gone without entirely. This includes eating cheaper but less healthy food, cooking less to save energy, using a food bank, or switching off the fridge - impacting both food and medication storage.
2. A wider squeeze on disposable incomes triggered by rising costs means people have less money available to live well and remain healthy, and are borrowing money to survive.
- 45% say that stress and anxiety from the rising cost of living has negatively impacted how they manage their diabetes or risk of diabetes.
3. People are cutting back on costs relating to managing their diabetes and are struggling to access care, risking entering the health system at a “sicker” point.
- 23% have cut back on costs related to managing their diabetes or risk of diabetes, such as hypo treatments, self-funded diabetes technology, or travel to appointments.
As well as people struggling right now, the picture painted by this research means we are worried that people will store up health problems in years to come. We expect that this will come from the cost of living crisis making existing health inequalities even worse.
The number of people cutting back on costs related to managing their diabetes or risk of diabetes rises to:
- 29% of people who live in the most deprived areas of the UK
- 32% of people from a Black or South Asian background
- 36% of people who receive means-tested benefits.
Among people with or at high risk of diabetes who live in the most deprived areas of the UK:
- 11% have been unable to afford to travel to medical appointments
- 21% have borrowed money to pay for food or energy bills
- 51% have cooked less to reduce energy costs
- 69% have eaten cheaper food which is less healthy.
What are we calling for?
Our report includes recommendations for how government and regulators can take action to fix the difficulties that people with and at risk of diabetes are facing because of the cost of living, address wider inequalities which we expect will lead to people storing health problems, and ensure that the NHS has the funding and resources it needs to navigate additional complex challenges in diabetes care arising from this crisis. This includes:
1. Ensure social security is enough to cover the cost of living.
2. Make sure people with diabetes have protection against disconnection.
3. Guarantee workers a right to paid time off to attend medical appointments.
4. Ensure the NHS has the funding and workforce available to support people with and at risk of diabetes.
5. Expand on the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.
6. Ensure Free School Meals provision is consistent across the UK and increase and expand Healthy Start.
Read our full report to find out more.
How can I get support
If you need further support with the cost-of-living crisis, you can visit our cost of living support page for advice and resources.