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Poverty reflected in Shout user demographics

From analysis of our anonymised dataset, comprising more than two million conversations with 700,000 children, young people and adults, we know that Shout reaches a large number of people of lower socio-economic status, who are facing additional pressures on their mental health due to the cost of living crisis.

Among children who contact the service, 25% of texters under the age of 18 are in receipt of free school meals, which is a little more than you would expect based on national statistics.

“I just wanted to say thank you so much, you’ve honestly given me the support I needed and i feel more confident with the idea of school i’m still uneasy but with a bit more support i think i can overcome this.”

Shout texter

Aged 13 or under and on free school meals

A large proportion (21%) of our adult texters are unemployed, which is significantly above the national average. Another indication that we reach a financially vulnerable audience is that we see demand for Shout across the UK correlating with the government’s indices of deprivation. This means that people from the most deprived areas in the UK are statistically more likely to contact Shout than people from the least deprived areas.

Texters from the most deprived areas of England are more likely to text Shout

Least deprived areas and most deprived areas Shout texter graph.png

This chart shows how people living in the nation’s most deprived local authorities, including Blackpool, Manchester, Hackney and Leicester, are 7% more likely to text Shout than people living in the UK’s least deprived local authorities, including Bath and North-East Somerset, South Oxfordshire, Harrogate and Surrey Heath.

Sexuality and gender of texters contacting us about financial issues

Gender and sexuality of Shout texters contacting about cost of living worries.png

People texting Shout about financial difficulties are more likely to be male (29% versus 18%) than people contacting us about other issues.

Age of texters contacting us about financial issues

Age of texters contacting Shout about cost of living.png

They are also more likely to be older: 68% of texters contacting us about financial issues are aged over 25 years old, versus 38% of people contacting us about other issues.

Cost of living mentions in Shout conversations

The use of the phrase ‘cost of living’ started to appear in conversations people had with Shout in early 2022. Mentions of the phrase grew towards the end of the year and have levelled off in 2023, but financial challenges remain a significant reason for people to contact us.

Currently, ‘cost of living’ is the main issue our texters are raising in around 3% of our conversations, equating to around 50 conversations a day. But given our understanding of our audience demographics across the whole service, we are contacted in the hundreds by people who are much more likely to be impacted by financial difficulties every day.

“Thank you. This volunteer is an asset and has given me a few ideas on how to cope and communicate with my partner and my feelings. They made me feel heard.”

Shout texter

who contacted us about the cost of living

Conversations (average % hourly)

Times when people text Shout graph.png

The issue is very consistently seen across all days of the week and all hours of the day, showing how important it is to have 24/7 service availability to support people with mental health issues that are related to the cost of living. This chart shows that demand for Shout is sustained at all hours of the day and night, with demand being greatest between 8pm - midnight when many other avenues of support are not available.

Issues affecting texters with financial worries

Most common issues raised in conversations about financial difficulties (% of conversations)

Graph showing most common issues raised in conversations about financial difficulties, with most common being stress or worry.png

This chart shows the key issues about which those in poverty contact Shout. Stress and worry are the most prevalent theme in these conversations.

From in-depth thematic analysis, almost all Shout conversations with texters contacting us about the cost of living related to struggles to cope with soaring energy prices, rent and mortgage payments, risk of homelessness and rising food bills. In around a third of cases, these concerns were exacerbating existing mental health struggles. In almost half of these conversations, texters had suicidal thoughts as they struggled with mounting bills and debts.

Some texters could not afford the commute to work and were worried about losing their jobs and some mentioned feeling exhausted, drained and burnt out as they took on additional jobs or worked extra hours but still struggled to make ends meet. Others had businesses that had been hugely impacted by rising costs and feared loss of livelihood.

While many of the people who text Shout may be of an age where they are not directly responsible for finances, younger texters worried about their parents’ mental state, and not having enough money to live comfortably.

"I genuinely believe you stopped me from hurting myself and that is angels work! Thank you so so much I’m so grateful for people like you in this world and it fills me with hope.”

Shout texter

Aged 13 or under and on free school meals

In over a third of conversations, texters talked about experiencing a deep sense of loneliness in the current cost of living crisis. Some texters felt they had no one to turn to for support
and financial advice. Others felt embarrassed and ashamed to talk about their finances with friends and relatives, many of whom referred to Shout as their outlet to vent and offload their anxious thoughts and feelings.

In a third of conversations, texters identified with a psychological diagnosis such as severe depression and anxiety, and were already struggling with their mental health. These texters spoke about how the rising cost of living exacerbated their symptoms. Some were unable to attend their therapy appointments as they could not afford the commute while others had to stop taking their prescribed medication as they could no longer afford them.

With large percentages of texters experiencing anxiety and stress and struggling with suicidal ideation alongside their financial concerns, many described feeling hopeless and not able to see a way out of their financial crisis.

Overall, texters were worried about how they were going to manage and spoke about the negative impact the cost of living crisis was having on their mental health. Texters referenced experiencing a lack of motivation and low self-esteem, and having difficulty sleeping.

  • 87% of people who contacted us about financial difficulties said their conversation was helpful
  • 65% said they felt more calm after their conversation

Coping skills used by Shout texters

One of the most frequently mentioned coping skills in Shout conversations with people with financial difficulties was talking to someone about their concerns, whether that be family, friends, a partner or one's GP. Texters also frequently mentioned planning on contacting their GP or seeking counselling.

Coping skills brought up in these types of conversation are shown in the word cloud below.

coping skills word cloud .png

Other coping mechanisms were also mentioned, but not nearly as often as in other types of Shout conversation. These include resting, watching a film, gaming, relaxing, listening to music, getting some sleep, going for a walk or taking the dog out.

It therefore appears that texters in financial difficulties are keen on unburdening themselves by talking, or seeking professional help, rather than engaging in solitary activities.