Resources for the Cost of Living Crisis


The Need for Live Data on the Cost of Healthy Living

Leading a healthy life involves spending money on certain good and services. The costs of healthy living include spending on nutritious foods, basic transport, and engaging in social and physical activities. These investments support wellbeing and prevent potential health issues developing in the future.

It’s vital to understand the dynamically changing nature of the costs associated with healthy living. Such costs are influenced by global events such as wars or pandemics, as well as changes in personal circumstances like a job loss or divorce. Yet, government policies often treat these costs as static, leading to ineffective strategies to address health inequalities.

Traditional measures of relative poverty that are commonly used to inform policies and strategies are based on an individual or household’s position in a population income distribution at a certain point in time. Such measures do not account for dynamic changes in the costs of healthy living such as the sharp increases in the costs of food, fuel, and energy bills experienced in the United Kingdom and many other countries.

Why Live Data?

By offering live data on the cost of healthy living, we can provide a real-time picture of evolving costs of healthy living. This information is important for:

  • Policy makers aiming to address health inequalities.
  • Individuals and households wanting to better understand their current health-related expenditures with real-time information that impacts their budgets.
  • Charities and non-governmental organisations aiming to support people who may be at risk of health-related poverty.

How it works:

Our research uses both existing and new methods for conceptualising and measuring the dynamics of absolute health-related poverty. These methods, compared to distributional measures of relative poverty, have a stronger theoretical and empirical basis for hypothesised impacts on health outcomes and are calculated based on real and dynamic costs of healthy living.

For example, the ‘Minimum Income for Healthy Living’ (MIHL), developed using survey and expenditure data alongside expert judgement, has been shown to be a better predictor of health outcomes including frailty when compared to relative measures.

Similarly, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK produces estimates of a ‘Minimum Income Standard’ (MIS) based on detailed consultations with members of the public to arrive at a level of income that makes a socially acceptable living standard affordable. This project aims to show how the costs of healthy living can change in real time and the potential impact on individual budgets and population health.

What’s next?

As the projects develops we aim to introduce:

  • More dynamic predictive analytics linking the costs of healthy living to different health outcomes.
  • Real-time tracking of more detailed costs, from food prices to transportation.
  • Integration of a wider range of data sources, ensuring a comprehensive overview.
Image Credit: Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

Dr. Paul Watts

  • Public Health; individual and environmental influences on health behaviours
  • Department of Allied and Public Health
  • School of Health, Sport and Bioscience