The Link Between Financial Stress and Heating Costs

Our mental health suffers when we struggle financially. Trying to get back on track can leave us feeling overwhelmed. And with rising energy prices beyond our control…our financial stress levels can soon become out of control!  

Heating is a basic necessity for comfort and health, especially during colder months. However, meeting high heating costs can cause significant strain, particularly for households on limited incomes or facing financial difficulties. 

With wages and benefits still not rising in line with the costs of everyday goods and services; financial stress is on the increase. Not only can it impact relationships and family dynamics within the household – it can also have negative effects on overall well-being, mental health conditions and physical health issues. 

And as financial stress is one of the main contributors of poor mental health; as a result – depression is also on the rise!

What is Depression and the Symptoms? 

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems that leads to disability and poor health globally. The World Health Organization estimates that it will become the number one cause of illness around the world by 2030. 

Depression symptoms include: 

  • Sadness 
  • Loss of interest  
  • Loss of pleasure 
  • Feelings of guilt 
  • Low self-worth 
  • Disturbed sleep patterns 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Constant tiredness 
  • Poor concentration levels 

Financial stress and depression are found to be greatest amongst those on low incomes. It is also often linked to rising heating costs. We need to find ways to combat this!

What is Financial Stress? 

Financial stress is an emotional tension that is linked to money. Often, this is triggered by not having enough money to meet financial obligations – such as mortgages and rent payments, buying food…or paying energy bills! 

When faced with high heating costs, households may be forced to make difficult trade-offs – such as cutting back on other essentials, like food and healthcare to afford heating bills. These trade-offs can further strain household budgets and increase financial stress, anxiety and depression. 

Like most types of stress, financial stress is made up of two parts – what is happening and what we believe to be happening.

Objective – This could be described as the situation that is being faced – i.e. financial difficulty or not having enough money to meet current expenses or debts. 

Subjective – This is how the situation is perceived and can apply to both present and future. This can lead to worry and distress. 

Although these two parts are related; not everyone will experience or be affected by both in the same way. For example; one person may be experiencing a situation where they are unable to pay their bills, but they’re not concerned about it – while another person might be financially secure yet still worry about their finances.

Therefore, it’s important that we try to observe our financial situation from a balanced viewpoint. 

Soothing Financial Stress 

We know that energy prices can contribute to financial stress and poor mental health – so here are a few things we hope can help you through when you’re feeling stressed and low! 

One step at a time 

Don’t attempt to sort out everything at once. Start by trying to see if there are parts of your finances you can improve yourself – such as trying to make a budget or reducing some extra costs.

Maybe you could try a comparison website to see if you can switch to a cheaper energy tariff? Or contact your current energy supplier directly to see if they offer any means of support?

Making small changes can amount to massive improvements over time. Regaining a sense of control over your situation can help you to improve your mental health and general well-being overall. 

Put it in perspective 

Are your financial worries accurate? Or are you focusing on things that could happen rather than those which are actually happening? Putting things into perspective can help calm your mind and deal with situations clearly and effectively. 

Treat yourself with kindness 

Don’t be hard on yourself! Experiencing financial difficulty is not a reflection on you as a person. It can happen for many reasons – many of these are often out of our control. If you’re experiencing sadness, shame or guilt related to your current situation; reminding yourself of this can help you to move through these negative thoughts and feelings. 

Take good care of yourself

Financial stress is draining, so make sure you focus on self-care and take time to relax.

Eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep and keeping up physical activity are all things that can improve your mood and wellbeing; helping you to keep a healthy perspective.

Try introducing some stress relief strategies; breathing exercises and meditation can help. And make sure to set time aside to be with friends and family and do some things that are fun! 

Ask for help 

If you’re struggling with your finances and mental health – remember that there’s no shame in asking for support. Organisations are available to help you improve your current situation.

For worries centred around paying your energy bill – contact your energy supplier as they may be able to help set up a manageable payment plan.

Citizens Advice, MoneyHelper and National Debtline offer free advice in managing money and can also help you to find other ways to improve your financial situation. 

If you are struggling with low mood, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness, talking to friends and family can help. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact your G.P. immediately! The NHS can also help you to access talking therapies and other mental health services.

Here are some more links to charities and helplines designed to support people going through financially difficult times. 

Make your home more energy efficient 

Inefficient heating systems or poorly insulated homes can result in higher heating bills. For households already facing financial stress, the added burden of high energy bills can make financial difficulties worse!

As many UK households have limited resources to invest in energy-efficient upgrades or improvements, the UK Government has introduced the ECO4, Great British Insulation and Boiler Upgrade schemes to help alleviate financial stress related to heating costs. If eligible – households can have solar panels, air source heat pumps and home insulation installed for free!

As these are means-tested schemes, there are certain eligibility criteria that must be met. However, you may still qualify for other schemes within your local authority/council area such as ECOFlex. Check your local council website for further information. 

Help for heating

There’s a clear link between financial stress, depression and anxiety and high heating costs – particularly for households facing economic challenges. Putting energy-efficiency measures in place can reduce heating costs, alleviate financial stress and improve mental health and general well-being.

At Energy Advice Helpline, we are here to support you through these difficult times. Visit our support hub today to see how we can help you to reduce financial stress and improve the quality of life for you and your family.

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