MORE than a quarter of adults in Scotland have accessed the NHS due to the impact of  the cost of living crisis on their mental or physical health, according to new research.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said action is needed as it warned a “cycle of health inequality” is “an injustice that is failing our people and turning up the pressure on the NHS”.

The survey for the JRF found that among those who reported the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their health, just under one in 10 (9%) needed to access hospital services – either accident and emergency or other care – for physical problems.

More than one in 20 (6%) had needed support from acute mental health services.

JRF is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to tackle poverty to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed.

Chris Birt, associate director for JRF in Scotland, said: “Our nation’s health has been of great concern for far too many years, with outrageous numbers of people in Scotland dying sooner and spending more years in poor health than they should.

“It stands to reason, but is still shocking to see, the scale on which people are seeing a decline in their health as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Unacceptable levels of poverty and high prices mean that it can be all but impossible for many families to live in the warm home we all need, or provide the regular, nutritious and cooked meals that keep us healthy.

“This cycle of health inequality is an injustice that is failing our people and turning up the pressure on the NHS.

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“It’s wrong that so many people in a rich country are living shorter, less healthy lives because they can’t afford essentials, and it is also outrageous that we are at risk of overwhelming the NHS through a lack of action.

“This was an avoidable crisis that has been inflicted on low-income households across Scotland and the UK.

“The real answer isn’t going to be a bigger health service to manage the symptoms – it is to cure the underlying poverty that is pulling so many into ill-health.”

The poll of more 4200 adults in Scotland was carried out by Savanta ComRes between March 19 and 29.

It found 26% of those surveyed said they have accessed the NHS due to the impact of the cost of living on their mental or physical health.

JRF also said the rising tide of poor health is affecting groups who have been long known to be at risk from poverty, with nearly two-thirds of single parents (63%) reporting a somewhat or very negative impact on their physical health.

It said this was a sizeable jump from around 50% in the previous survey in 2022.

The charity is calling on the UK Government to adopt the essentials guarantee that JRF is proposing with the Trussell Trust, which it said would ensure universal credit provides enough so no-one goes without the essentials.

It also urged the Scottish Government to recommit to and accelerate efforts to create a minimum income guarantee.

The Scottish and UK governments have been asked for comment.