Almost half of Poles claim that high inflation is the reason why they lose their mental health. There are more such people than those who do not experience this type of problems. And a year ago, the situation was completely opposite. Currently, it is mainly seniors who talk about unfavourable changes, but it is also worth paying attention to Generation Z. When commenting on the survey results, experts estimate that due to the above-mentioned situation, the economy loses up to several billion PLN per year. They also add that the problem has been growing for a long time, but the worst thing is that it will not be easy to get rid of it. Additionally, they point out that the situation may continue to deteriorate even though, inflation has started to drop significantly. Experts also predict that the crisis will not disappear soon and we, as a society, will have to bear the consequences.
Alarming results again
Currently, nearly 49% of Poles experience deterioration of their mental health, mental condition,
well-being or mental functioning due to high inflation. This is how society reacts to increases in prices in shops and a decline in the income value. In turn, less than 42% of people do not feel this way and just over 9% have no opinion on the issue. This is according to the periodic report entitled: “Mental health of Poles in times of high inflation”, developed on the basis of a survey conducted by UCE RESEARCH and the ePsycholodzy.pl platform in the first half of June this year on a representative sample of over a thousand adult Poles.
“In short, it can be said that nearly 15 million Poles may experience deterioration of their mental health, mental condition, well-being or mental functioning due to high inflation. The most common symptom is stress, which – according to our calculations – is complained about by around 7.5 million Poles. The results are obviously alarming. Inflation has left a lasting mark on Poles”, comments Michał Pajdak from ePsycholodzy.pl.
Compared to July last year, significant changes are also visible. At that time, less than 44% of respondents experienced the above-mentioned deterioration (now – almost 49%), over 44% had the opposite opinion (currently – less than 42%) and just over 12% had no opinion on this matter (currently – over 9%). According to economist Marek Zuber, last year’s survey shows a situation in which inflation was very high but its peak occurred at the beginning of 2023. Therefore, the feelings associated with it are stronger and even more visible. Moreover, people experience effects of inflation longer and longer, i.e. they feel it more severely. As the expert emphasises, the cumulative price increase for the last two years has been well over 25% and in some commodity groups, such as food, even much more. In addition, real salaries are falling.
“In 2022, more people could still believe that high inflation would be short-lived. At the beginning, people thought that they could cope with it and the situation would last e.g. 2-3 months. The government and the central bank announced that this phenomenon would pass soon. However, more and more Poles are beginning to seriously feel price increases as a threat to their lifestyle. A year ago, many of us experienced deterioration of mental health. Now, there are also those who previously believed that high inflation would last for a short time or that they would be able to cope with it easily”, analyses Professor Witold Orłowski, chief economic advisor of PwC in Poland.
Most vulnerable groups
The above-mentioned problems are experienced more often by women than men. Looking at the age groups, it is clear that mainly people aged 75-80 report deteriorating mental health. Next are respondents aged 18-24 and 35-44. In turn, taking into account the declared monthly net income of respondents, it can be concluded that unfavourable changes are reported mainly by people earning PLN 5,000-6,999. Next are people earning PLN 3,000-4,999 and PLN 1,000-2,999. The list is closed by respondents who do not mention the amount of their income or earn less than PLN 1,000.
“Respondents with income of PLN 5,000-6,999 are the so-called typical middle class. People who have been able to benefit more and more from the effects of their work in recent years. In the current situation, they are forced to save, which is something they have not experienced for years. However, the problem is not only the increase in inflation but also the related decrease in real incomes. In the case of significantly higher salaries, inflation does not limit purchasing possibilities and with the lowest salaries, the situation has already been very difficult”, says Marek Zuber.
Mental health problems are noticed primarily by people with secondary education. Next are Poles with higher, primary, lower secondary or basic vocational education. In turn, looking at the size of the place of residence, it is clear that this phenomenon is mainly mentioned by respondents from cities with
a population of 50,000 up to 99,000 inhabitants. Then there are Poles from cities with at least 500,000 inhabitants. And at the end of the list, there are people from cities with 200,000 up to 499,000 inhabitants, as well as from villages and towns with a population of up to 5,000 inhabitants.
“I think that people with secondary education and from small towns are also part of society that considers themselves the so-called middle class. They have certain life aspirations that they do not want to give up. Of course, they will not run out of money for food and will not die of hunger. However, there is a threat to a certain model of life, sometimes identified with life success. Now, for example, they have to change a two-week holiday in Turkey for a week’s holiday in the country, because they do not have enough money for other expenses. This can be a heavy mental burden for such people”, emphasises Professor Orłowski.
A multi-billion hit to the economy
Questions also arise about how much our economy loses due to the poorer mental health of Poles. According to Professor Orłowski, this phenomenon is very difficult to be assessed precisely. In general, bad moods have a detrimental effect on the economy. For example, people who are afraid of inflation try to limit their purchases. This translates into the economic situation, so the effect is certainly negative for the market. The expert notes that this is the first such a clear and long-lasting increase in inflation that we have recorded in the recent history of Poland. Although, the inflation rate was high in the 1990s, it gradually decreased. Now, there is a completely new situation for people who have become unaccustomed to this phenomenon for the last 20 years. However, it is still too early to estimate such final costs. Nevertheless, the authors of the report partially undertook this task.
“Taking into account only the absence from work of insured people due to mental and behavioural disorders, the cost to the economy can be estimated at between PLN 7.4 and 9.2 billion annually. This concerns 23.8 million days of sickness absence last year. It is also necessary to take into account the costs of replacing absent employees, i.e. their recruitment, training, etc. In addition, there are costs resulting from delayed or not properly performed work, lost customers as well as burdens resulting from the healthcare infrastructure and private medical care of employees. However, the
above-mentioned amount is just one of several directly calculable components. The remaining amounts may be several times this value and amount to even several dozen billion PLN per year”, says Michał Pajdak.
As Marek Zuber points out, lower willingness to work and lower efficiency but also more limited consumption are possible effects of this situation. However, according to the expert, the impact on the economy should not be serious. These are not processes that will significantly reduce economic growth but they will be a visible element in it. In turn, Professor Orłowski emphasises that people usually feel inflation more strongly than statistical measurement indicates. The expert draws attention to the forecasts of the President of the National Bank of Poland. They show that the inflation rate will drop to 2-3%. However, the chief economic advisor of PwC in Poland believes that inflation will amount to
9-10% in the autumn. But this does not necessarily mean any improvement in people’s feelings about it.
Is the worst yet to come?
“Inflation has created a significant financial hole among Poles, which will be felt even in the future. We are talking here, for example, about people who are in arrears with payments for an apartment or
a house. The arrears will increase because there are also ongoing fees. Personally, I predict that if double-digit inflation stays with us until the end of the year and then we repeat the survey, the results will deteriorate again. In December this year, even up to approx. 60-70% of respondents may claim that they experience deterioration of their mental health. Moreover, the slowing inflation itself does not guarantee that the issue will disappear, because the problem has been accumulating for a long time”, argues Michał Pajdak.
As experts from ePsycholodzy.pl explain, Poles usually feel that inflation is much higher than officially reported by Statistics Poland (GUS). And this type of thinking makes their condition even worse. This is a direct path to various types of disorders and diseases, including those most dangerous to life and health, as well as further losses for the economy. “The so-called decreasing inflation, often communicated by politicians, does not mean a decline in the prices of goods and services but only
a slower growth rate. But I suspect that many consumers do not understand it this way, which later manifests itself in shock or even frustration at the shop checkout or shelf”, says Pajdak.
Moreover, Poles have been experiencing inflation first-hand for a long time, not only understood as an increase in prices but also its direct effects, e.g. layoffs, work restrictions or lack of prospects. This affects the deterioration of mental health. “What deserves special attention is the so-called Generation Z. The group of these young Poles reports e.g. the highest burnout rates. People entering the labour market with such problems are often ineffective. And if they do not undergo therapy, this condition will last for years. This is an extremely dangerous trend for employers”, warns the expert.
However, according to experts, all this should not surprise anyone. “The last period is actually the epicentre of rampant inflation and emotions are gathering in Poles. The worst thing is that this
build-up will not be easy to get rid of. The problem has spread and we will have to bear the consequences. And falling inflation does not necessarily have to improve the mental condition of Poles”, summarises Michał Pajdak from ePsycholodzy.pl.