The rising cost of living is hitting Australians from every angle and health is one of the biggest casualties.

A study conducted by the Melbourne Institute revealed that between August 2022 and February 2023, 53 per cent of Australians reported being under financial stress.

This forces people to prioritise spending, foregoing one or more of their basic needs.

Those needs include food, the cost of housing, energy and fuel bills and even healthcare.

It often leads to missing important doctors’ appointments and going without essential medicines.

And that can result in more serious health issues and even greater expenses.

Cost of living pressures tend to hit lower-income families harder.

This is because they normally do not have the luxury of dipping into savings, hence cuts to the household budget are forced upon them.

It is a vicious cycle and sadly, inflationary pressure affects healthcare providers as much as those who need it.

The effects of the higher cost of living are wide and far reaching.

Access to healthcare

Just seeing a doctor or other healthcare provider can become challenging or even prohibitive during a cost of living crisis.

Medicare pays GPs only $41.40 for a standard 20-minute consultation.

This is well below the amount required to adequately undertake a high standard of care.

Hence most doctors charge a gap payment above that standard fee.

Cost of living pressures affect businesses as much as they do households and individuals.

A new federal payroll tax to be imposed on medical clinics is also expected to increase the cost of visiting a doctor.

And it forces up the prices of prescription and non-prescription medications.

The end result is people in great need may defer or forego critical GP visits, medicines and procedures leading to poorer health outcomes. 

Health insurance

Health insurance premiums rise every year on April 1.

Fortunately, the most recent rise was an average of little more than 3 per cent across health insurance providers.

That rise was significantly lower than most insurance premium rises in other sectors.

But the substantial cost of health insurance is already beyond the reach of many lower income earners.

Even patients with insurance are forced to contribute significant co-payments when using private hospitals.

In a cost of living crisis, it compels many people to choose between health insurance and other needs such as housing, food and education.

Housing insecurity

On the night of the 2021 Census in Australia, 122,000 people reported they were homeless.

That is one in every 208 Australians.

The significant rise in the cost of living since then is likely to have seen that number leap sharply.

Soaring interest rates have put many people under increased mortgage stress.

The cost of renting has also climbed sharply.

Landlords are seeking to recover their rising costs, while taking advantage of a market in high demand and short supply.

Housing insecurity can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

It is also associated with substance abuse and a higher risk of poor nutrition and chronic disease.

Nutrition and food insecurity

A Foodbank Hunger report in 2023 reported that 3.7 million Australian households had run out of food in the previous 12 months.

That is nearly two in every five households in the country.

For those who can afford food, the rising cost of living forces many to compromise on their food budgets.

They tend to opt for cheaper, processed foods high in fat, sugar and preservatives and low in nutrients.

This ultimately leads to more health problems and can cause obesity, chronic health conditions, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Mental health

Mental health issues rank among the most common reasons people visit a doctor.

And financial stress is one of the most common triggers.

It can cause a range of issues including anxiety, depression and chronic stress.

Worrying about finding the rent money or putting food on the table is one of the most debilitating stresses a person can face.

Work-life balance

Many people try to work longer hours or pick up a second or even third job in a cost of living crisis.

But the ultimate pay off for that is more stress and the risk of depression and other mental health disorders.

A healthy work-life balance is key to a healthy body but many do not have that luxury when money is tight.

Recreation and fitness

Working longer hours reduces a person’s available leisure time.

Recreation and fitness are often among the first to suffer.

Physical activity and social engagements are key ingredients for one’s physical and mental wellbeing.

But in times of high financial stress, people who work more become time poor.

This makes them vulnerable to social isolation and poor physical fitness leading to the risk of physical and mental health problems.

Get proactive with your health

Your health is your greatest asset.

Without it, you have nothing.

That is why in times of rising costs, it is even more important to maintain your good health with preventative measures.

It means eating well, exercising regularly and ticking off boxes via regular check-up with your GP.

That way, you are doing everything within your power to guard against serious and more costly health problems.

A quick trip to see your GP might just be one of the best investments you will ever make!

Doctors working from AHA Clinics really listen to the concerns of their patients.

They have great empathy and can offer sage advice about how to become fitter and healthier, even when times are tough.

Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.