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New Age UK research reveals the enormous toll of the cost of living crisis on many older people’s mental health and wellbeing

Published on 17 March 2023 12:00 AM

In January a massive 9.6 million over-60s (60%) were worried about being able to heat their homes when they wanted to, and 7.2 million (45%) were worried about affording other essentials such as food

Charity launches new campaign to highlight the huge challenges facing many older people and how Age UK provides solutions and – just as importantly - reassurance

Amidst one of the most difficult winters many older people will have ever experienced, as they try to make their fixed incomes stretch to cover the essentials at a time when prices are soaring, new research from the charity Age UK reveals just how big an impact the cost of living crisis is having on many older people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The research, which was carried out in January, found that 9.6 million over 60s (60%) were worried about paying their energy bills, and 7.2 million (45 per cent) were worried about affording other essentials, such as food.

In addition, around half (49%) of those over-60s who took part in the research, equivalent to almost 8 million people in all, were worried about the impact of energy bills on their health. This figure rose to three-fifths (62%) of those whose income is £20,000 per annum or less (equivalent to 3.3 million over 60s); and to nearly two-thirds (65%) of those on a very low income and in receipt of benefits (equivalent to 1.6 million over 60s).

The Age UK study also revealed that 10% of the sample, equivalent to 1.6 million older people in total, had recently carried out a benefits check to see if they were eligible for any more money, demonstrating how concerned they were about making ends meet. 6% of the research sample, equivalent to about a million over 60s overall, reported having sleepless nights because of high energy prices.

The Charity is launching a campaign today to raise awareness of the huge challenges facing many older people, and how Age UK draws on its expertise to offer practical solutions and, just as importantly, a sense of reassurance for all those who are buckling under the strain of this unprecedented cost of living crisis.

As well as being frightened about making ends meet, Age UK recognises that significant numbers of older people will also be struggling with these worries alone, with no one to turn to for advice or support. Nearly a million older people across the UK often feel lonely and the current cost of living crisis is likely to be increasing these numbers, as engagement in social and leisure activities is one of few economies you can make if you are living on a low fixed income.

Age UK is shining a spotlight on the tough challenges many older people are facing this winter with the launch of a new film. The charity’s campaign cites problems such as struggling to afford heating, or electricity, and being socially isolated, pointing out that no one needs to cope with these issues alone and that Age UK is there to help. The campaign, entitled ‘Age UK. Know what to do’ showcases how services like the Age UK Advice Line stand with older people in difficulty, providing expert advice with kindness and sensitivity, to help an older person and sometimes their family and friends, to overcome the particular problems they face.

Age UK’s national services are a lifeline, especially for older people who have no one else to turn to. The Charity’s free and confidential Advice Line is open every day of the year and has access to experts on a huge range of issues an older person may encounter as they age, empowering them so that they know what to do in their own situation, and helping them to do it. The specialist team of advisors are on hand to give expert advice, including finding out if older people are entitled to extra financial support. For example, during the past seven months Age UK’s Advice Line has identified over £2 million worth of unclaimed benefits, averaging an additional £4,468 per person. Of these older people, four in five (84%) were found to be at risk of fuel poverty.

The Charity also offers The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour service for older people who need someone to talk to, and a Telephone Friendship Service that gives older people the chance to enjoy weekly chats with a new friend.

Jeanette, who is in her 70s, has several health issues after suffering a stroke a couple of years ago. She has been struggling with the rising living and energy costs which are a constant source of worry to her, especially as the cold weather can worsen her health. “In the winter I'm not so mobile and I get lots more aches and pains because of the cold weather. I don’t really want to go out in the winter so then I sit here and I worry about the electric, how much it’s going to cost to survive. We try not to spend too much when we go shopping, but you can’t avoid it. You’re bashing your head against a brick wall, and because we’re here, right out in the country, it’s extra cold anyway. It’s the heating that’s absolutely crippling but you’ve got to stay warm.”

Jeanette called the Age UK Advice Line to find out if she would be eligible to claim benefits, and thanks to help from an Age UK advisor Jeanette was awarded the higher rate of Attendance Allowance, which she says has been life-changing. She said: “Age UK filled all the forms in for us, sent them to us, and we just had to sign them and send them off. Without them I wouldn't have had a chance of getting Attendance Allowance. I never thought in a million years I'd get it. I've bought myself a mobility scooter which has changed everything.”

Dame Judi Dench, Age UK supporter, said: “With the cost of everyday items rising so rapidly, it’s no wonder so many older people are anxious about their future and how they will be able to manage.

“That’s why I am supporting Age UK as it launches this new campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties older people are facing. Age UK offers a range of support for older people, including information and advice, and friendship services for those struggling alone. It’s important to not only shine a light on the issues worrying many of those who are older, but also on the vital support the Charity offers and the fact that there is help available.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said; “Our new research tells us there are a lot of older people who are worried sick at the moment, particularly about how they can keep their heads above water when every time they go to the supermarket they see that prices have risen again. From conversations with older people we know that some live in total dread of their next fuel bill, and are at their wits end as they try to stay ahead of energy costs like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

“In our experience at Age UK, most older people are resourceful and resilient, and determined to be self-sufficient, but this is an exceptionally challenging winter, especially if you are an older person without a lot of money to go round at the best of times. Our new campaign points out that life can seem ok on the surface, but underneath it an older person may be finding their situation incredibly stressful, because of the horrible uncertainty about prices and the worry they may be unable to make ends meet, with no obvious way out.

“At Age UK we want older people and their families and friends to know that at Age UK we are here for them, we stand with them, and we will help them find the best solution for whatever is troubling them, and support them with the next steps. We totally understand why so many are so worried, but we want them to know that whatever they are facing there is reason for hope, we are here to help, and they are not alone.

“Through the Charity’s Advice Line and Telephone Friendship Service, Age UK is able to provide emotional and practical support to older people who so badly need it. However, with demand for our services rising, we can’t do it on our own. Find out how you can help by visiting”

Age UK know what to do. Find out more by visiting Older people, their families and friends looking for support should visit or call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65. The Age UK Advice Line is open 365 days a year (8am – 7pm) offering advice on a range of issues, including benefits checks and obtaining additional support for anyone who is worried or struggling to pay their bills.

Notes to editors:

Age UK is a national charity that works with a network of partners, including Age Scotland, Age Cymru, Age NI and local Age UKs across England, to help everyone make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.

In the UK, the Charity helps more than seven million older people each year by providing advice and support.  It also researches and campaigns on the issues that matter most to older people. Its work focuses on ensuring that older people: have enough money; enjoy life and feel well; receive high quality health and care; are comfortable, safe and secure at home; and feel valued and able to participate.

Age UK’s subsidiary charity, Age International, supports older people globally in over 30 developing countries by funding programmes such as vital emergency relief and healthcare and campaigning to raise awareness and change policies.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and registered company number 6825798). Charitable services are provided through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s Community Interest Company (CiC) (registered company number 1102972) which donates its net profits to Age UK (the Charity)


Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email 

See media contacts

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Last updated: Feb 05 2024

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