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9 in 10 students’ mental health impacted by cost of living as confidence in government falls to record low

woman stressed on laptop

A quarter of students say financial worries are having a major impact on their mental health, as increasing numbers cut down on essentials, according the new research.

A survey of more than 4,500 UK university students, carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS), found that 96 per cent are making cutbacks, with over half spending less on food, another half heating their homes less regularly, and one in ten cutting back on sanitary products. Three quarters also report socialising less to save money.

More than a quarter of students are left with less than £50 a month after covering rent and bills, and 42 per cent are surviving off less than £100.

These findings come as more than 1,000 people wrote to their MPs demanding urgent student cost-of-living support in the Budget. Less than one in 10 students think the Government is doing enough to support them with the cost of living.

Students are increasingly turning to their family or savings for help, but 77 per cent said the cost-of-living crisis had affected the income of someone who supports them financially, highlighting that alternative sources of support are drying up.

The survey found no significant improvements for students since the last survey in June, despite the introduction of support for energy bills this autumn.

Despite soaring inflation and energy bills, the undergraduate student maintenance package in England has risen just 2.3 per cent this year and students have been excluded from existing government support.

NUS is calling on the Chancellor to announce a student support package as part of the Autumn Budget on Thursday, which also falls on International Day of the Student.

Seven per cent of students think the government has done enough to help them, lower than in June, and 11 per cent think their student support is sufficient to cover energy bills.

NUS warned that those who cannot rely on family to top up their student support are risking their studies by picking up more work, or dropping out of education entirely.

Students and parents have been urging MPs across the country to stop neglecting them. They echoed NUS’ calls for a student support package, which would include tying maintenance support to inflation and giving students access to Universal Credit.

NUS has also called for a cap on spiralling student rent, a boost to hardship funds and adjusted maintenance loan thresholds to reflect changes to family income. In the long term, NUS is campaigning for changes to secure the future of students, including the return of maintenance grants, more affordable housing, and ultimately the abolition of tuition fees.

Chloe Field, NUS Vice President Higher Education, said:

“Two months into the academic year and students are still being ignored by the Government despite intense pressures on their incomes. It’s clear that students have not been considered in support schemes so far and with more than 1,000 asking their MP for help this week, the message from students could not be clearer ahead of the Budget.

“This is having a profound impact on all students. Students with caring responsibilities, who don’t have time to supplement their income, cannot get Universal Credit. International students, who pay higher tuition fees and Visa costs, are limited in the hours they can work. Students from poorer backgrounds, whose families cannot top up their loan, face the choice between working longer hours or dropping out completely.

“The Government must take action urgently to relieve the pressure and implement our proposals. Until they do, institutions must step in to support their students with the cost of food, rent, and energy. Students are our future nurses, teachers, and other key workers, and we need support now to protect everyone’s future.”

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