Cost of living crisis: 1 in 7 people ‘skipping meals’ as high inflation and interest rates hit, Which? finds

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Although the UK inflation rate has fallen and interest rates may not rise again, consumers are still being squeezed by record mortgage costs and soaring energy bills

One in seven people have decided to skip breakfast, lunch or dinner as a result of the cost of living crisis, new research by consumer watchdog Which? has found.

The site’s monthly Consumer Insight Tracker also found the majority of the 2,000 people it surveyed had cut back on heating or other essentials. It described its findings as “hugely worrying” and called for the government to provide greater support, including extending the lower rate of the energy price guarantee beyond March 2023.

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It comes as households are set to face further pressure on their finances from next month as several key bills are set for hikes. Council tax, water bills, as well as the cost of mobile and broadband packages are all set to become significantly more expensive.

The UK has been hit by soaring inflation and high interest rates over the last 12 months. Price rises have hit everything from the typical supermarket shop to the cost of a tank of fuel, at the same time as the cost of monthly mortgage repayments has gone up by hundreds of pounds.

So, what do Which?’s new findings tell us about the state of the UK cost of living crisis?

What does Which? research show?

Every month, Which? undertakes a survey of 2,000 people across the UK that is run by pollsters Yonder. It uses the findings as part of its monthly Consumer Insight Tracker.

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The latest edition of this Tracker shows us the cost of living crisis is having a severe effect on living standards across the country. As well as it finding one in seven people are skipping meals as a result of the rocketing cost of living, Which? found 9% of people have prioritised meals for family members over themselves, while 4% (100 of those surveyed) had used a foodbank.

Which? research has found the cost of living crisis is having a major impact on living standards (image: AFP/Getty Images)Which? research has found the cost of living crisis is having a major impact on living standards (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Which? research has found the cost of living crisis is having a major impact on living standards (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Some seven in 10 (72%) respondents had not turned on their heating as much due to rising bills, while a further 39% have been using less hot water, with 19% having fewer cooked meals.

At the same time, 59% of those surveyed had made at least one financial adjustment - including cutting back on essentials, selling items or dipping into savings - over the last month in a bid to keep on top of essential spending. This finding would equate to 16.5 million households if the survey was scaled up to a national level, and is seven percentage points higher than this time last year - albeit six below where it was in September.

The survey also estimated that around 2.3 million households had missed or defaulted on a key payment, including their mortgage, rent, credit card or a utility bill payment, over the last month – a figure in line with the number of people who missed payments in January.

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What has Which? said about its findings?

Which? director of policy and advocacy, Rocio Concha, said: “It’s hugely worrying that households across the country are forced to go hungry and sit in cold homes as they cannot afford basic essentials this winter. Which? is calling on the government and essential businesses to do more to support their customers through this extraordinary cost-of-living crisis.

“With energy bills due to rise in April, the government must urgently consider postponing its decision to increase the energy price guarantee to £3,000. For some families, who continue to be battered by high inflation, this will offer an important lifeline to stop them falling into financial distress.”

The cost of living crisis began at the end of 2021 when energy bills began to soar (image: AFP/Getty Images)The cost of living crisis began at the end of 2021 when energy bills began to soar (image: AFP/Getty Images)
The cost of living crisis began at the end of 2021 when energy bills began to soar (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

In recent days, there have been signals that the Sunak administration may be considering a delay in making the energy price guarantee less generous. Campaigners and experts have pointed out that energy bills are set to fall in the summer anyway, meaning there would not be much extra cost in keeping the average £2,500 limit in place.

There have been fears increasing the level of the energy price guarantee to £3,000 per year for the average household from April 2023 would increase inflation, severely dent household finances and damage the country’s mental health. Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has said he thinks there’s an 85% chance the government will keep the current level of support.

The government has already announced it will make several one-off cost of living payments available to vulnerable people.

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