Financial stress is taking a heavy toll on South Africans. A rallying oil price, combined with a weaker rand, resulted in today’s sharp hike in fuel prices. Petrol (both 93 and 95) is now R1.21 a litre, while diesel now rose to 148.2c a litre. That, along with a huge spike in food inflation, a 75% youth unemployment rate and a repo rate increase of 25 basis points looming this month, is all impacting the mental health of South Africans.
An estimated 54% South Africans are unable to make their money stretch to month-end.
We’ve all gone through this major life event together and it’s changed many of us in profound ways. We can’t underestimate the toll it’s taken on our mental health. We’re likely to keep seeing the impact of this for years to come. A recent Sanlam survey showed that above anything else, most people wish their former selves had saved more.
Here are some of the key findings from the survey, showing how South Africans are feeling and what they wish they could write to their pre-pandemic selves:
- Financial stress has reportedly had the most major impact on people’s mental wellbeing: A whopping 57% of participants cited financial stress as having a huge effect on mental wellbeing. This was followed by worry about their own and loved ones’ health (44%), and all the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic (38%).
- Financial stress hit young people the hardest: Those aged 18-24 were most mentally impacted by financial stress – and younger women were the hardest hit of all.
- Older people were more concerned about the state of the nation: Interestingly, older individuals were more worried about the economy and state of South Africa. They were also more impacted by the negativity of the news.
- Loss and grief impacted all ages, equally: 24% of people cited loss and grief as having a mental impact; 22% said isolation and loneliness.
It was clear that the pandemic made many rethink their physical and mental wellbeing. During Covid-19:
- 21% of people went on prescription medication to help with stress and anxiety
- 21% invested in online and physical exercise options
- 12% sought counselling or therapy
- Others went on health supplements and turned to natural remedies, along with meditation and mindfulness
- About 35% of respondents said they always make time for self-care
Overall, most people wanted to tell their pre-Covid-19 selves to ‘take time to enjoy the simple things in life and the moments with loved ones’, as well as to ‘manage your finances better and start an emergency fund’.
Plan your finances and get help with any debt concerns you may have. Start or increase that emergency fund. Make use of a budget tool to redo your household budget. Add to your retirement provision. Try to stay in a stable financial or debt position.
Stay calm, be wise, be kind. Do things you enjoy. Let’s take action to look after ourselves and each other. We can rise above any chaos.