A Higher Toll: The Impact of Inflation on Mental Health

It’s hard to make it through a day without a reminder of rising prices. Inflation reached a 40-year high in 2022, and prices continue to climb. Nearly everything, from groceries to housing, costs more than it did just a year or two ago—in some cases more than it did the week before.

While this inflation is certainly an economic issue, it doesn’t affect only wallets and bank accounts. It can also take a toll on mental well-being. And for those who are already struggling, the impact of inflation on mental health can be especially high.

A Common Concern

Concerns about rising prices have increasingly become the norm over the past few years. A July 2022 study by the American Psychiatric Association revealed that 87% of Americans were anxious or very anxious about inflation, up eight percentage points from the previous month.

For many, this anxiety isn’t just a passing thought. A 2023 Bankrate survey found that more than half of Americans say money takes a toll on their mental health—52%, up from 42% just a year before. Money was the most commonly cited factor that harms mental well-being, ranking higher than a person’s own health, current events, the health of loved ones, relationships with friends and family, and work.

A Higher Toll

While inflation is affecting the mental health of most American adults, for some, rising prices are having a particularly weighty impact. As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell stated in a 2022 speech, “The burdens of high inflation fall heaviest on those who are least able to bear them.”

This includes those facing the intertwining challenges of serious mental illnesses and poverty—people like members of the Well Community. They feel the impact of inflation on their mental health daily as rising prices not only cause anxiety but stand as barriers to stability. The 2022 LifeWorks Mental Health Index demonstrates this dual impact: It reveals that inflation has affected the ability to meet basic needs such as food and housing for 20% of Americans; and those in this group scored significantly lower than average in mental health.

In addition to making healthy food, safe housing and other basics less attainable, inflation can prevent those dealing with mental illnesses from receiving needed care and services. A 2022 Gallup poll found that 38% of Americans say they put off treatment for a medical condition, up 12 percentage points from 2021. Lower-income individuals (like the vast majority of those living with serious mental health conditions) were significantly more likely to say that they had delayed care than those with higher incomes. Less than half of those with dealing with mental health conditions received treatment in 2021.

Many people living with serious mental illnesses aren’t able to hold a job or can work only minimally. Those who rely on public assistance, like most members of the Well Community, receive a maximum of $914 per month for an eligible individual and $1,371 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. They lack the financial wiggle room needed to pay a little extra for groceries or for a bus fare to get to a medical appointment.

While many people can scale back on restaurant meals or money spent on new shoes, most of those living with serious mental illnesses can’t cut discretionary spending because they have no discretionary funds. The resources they have already go toward essentials, and when those necessities cost more, they face difficult decisions about what to forgo.

Help Amid the Challenges of Inflation

Thanks to the generosity of many, the Well Community is able to lessen the impact of inflation on mental health for individuals in the Dallas area who are bearing the heaviest burdens due to rising prices. Through the Well they can receive nutritious meals, case management services and essentials like personal care items and clothing. And, amid the ongoing challenges of living with poverty and mental illness, they find connection and friendship in the company of others who understand and care.

Your gift to the Well Community will help us continue to serve those who are dealing with the added challenges of inflation amid life with serious mental illnesses. Give now.

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