Consumer opinion captured through the Catalyst program, which tracks social and environmental concerns has found that our anxiety over Covid is fading but being replaced by growing concern over cost-of-living which has risen steadily to become the most pressing challenge across the US, UK and Australia.
After 2 years of chaos caused by the pandemic, it is encouraging to see anxiety over the virus diminishing. Unfortunately, this appears to simply have been replaced by another complex issue: cost-of-living.
It is important for policymakers to turn their attention towards supporting those struggling with rising costs of living, otherwise we risk exacerbating the mental health challenges created by the pandemic as people strains to make ends meet.
In Australia and the UK, behind cost of living, climate change is the next biggest concern. However, in the US, other social issues are believed to be more pressing. Homelessness, crime, and mental health lead climate change in terms of relative importance.
Diving deeper into the results across each of these three markets offers additional insights. Firstly, in terms of cost-of-living, the hardest hit are the Baby Boomers across the three markets. This ties in with reports in the ABC about the difficulties faced by those receiving the age pension.
Women were also significantly more likely than men in all three markets to cite cost-of-living as an issue requiring immediate attention, as were those with children. For example, in Australia, 47% of men cite cost-of-living as an issue requiring immediate attention, while 62% of women cite the same.
Research conducted by the Australian National University for the St Vincent de Paul Society suggests that cost-of-living pressures can be alleviated through small changes in our taxation systems, pointing out that:
“Increasing social security improves health, wellbeing and social outcomes, and also benefits the economy – so it’s an all-round win-win.”
The UK press is also filled with articles about the impact of cost-of-living, some calling it a social emergency.
When it comes to the issue of climate change, concern was significantly higher in Australia (45%) and the UK (44%) than it was in the US where 29% of respondents indicated climate change as an issue requiring immediate attention.
Part of the reason behind this is because in the US, climate change is drowned out by other social issues, namely Homelessness, crime and mental health, all of which are perceived to be more pressing than climate change.
Differences among demographic groups for the issue of climate change are much smaller than for cost-of-living,, indicating a more generally widespread and belief that climate change is an issue requiring immediate attention.
Across the three markets baby boomers were slightly more concerned about climate change, than the other age groups, however there was very little variation across gender and parental status, reinforcing the finding that climate change is an issue with universal support for greater action.
In an Australian election year, it is going to be very interesting to see how political parties respond to these findings and what policies they propose to help address the rising costs of living and the looming and persistent challenge of addressing climate change.
By Eddie Kowalski
Catalyst Program Director
Catalyst is an open-source research program investigating consumer concerns about social and environmental issues. The program is building a body of knowledge to fuel conversation, action and behavior change by supporting businesses with insights that fuel their own programs of action.
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Glow is a proud partner and research technology provider to the Catalyst program. Special thanks to Cint for providing the sample on which the research is based and to our other partner brands including: