The cost of living crisis has overtaken Covid-19 as the top concern among Scots, according to a new poll.
Rising costs across the board combined with soaring rates of inflation were cited well ahead of public health as the number one issue facing the country in 2022 regardless of employment status or social background.
The Understanding Scotland survey also found that 53% of respondents judged Scotland to be heading “in the wrong direction” while the vast majority admitted they “expected things to get worse before they get better.”
The poll, which interviewed more than 2,000 people aged 16 and above, showed younger people in urban areas, particularly those in Glasgow, were most concerned about rising bills.
Almost a quarter of respondents admitted they had lost sleep due to anxiety over economic worries, with 62% admitting they were worse off than 12 months ago.
Industry watchdog Ofgem warned on Tuesday that the average household energy bill was set to rise by £800 per year in October when the price cap increases for the second time in the space of six months.
Boss Jonathan Brearly blamed the rise on continued “volatility” in gas prices, adding the number of people experiencing fuel poverty in the UK could double to around 12m.
Three in five people surveyed as part of the Understanding Scotland poll already admitted forgoing heating, while a fifth said they had skipped meals.
Mark Diffley, director of Diffley Partnership, which produced survey, said: “These findings point to near-universal concern over the cost-of-living crisis.
“While the public appears to have largely moved on from the pandemic, this is not giving way to any evident optimism about Scotland’s future or direction of travel.”
He added: “Our polling finds extensive and, for some, acute anxiety over a cost-of-living crisis that is hitting people across all parts of society.”
Lower income households were disproportionately affected by the grim financial outlook, with 23% in the most deprived areas saying their finances have become “much worse” compared to 13% from more affluent backgrounds.
Across the country, 47% of people said the cost of living was their biggest concern but Covid-19 had fallen to just 4%.
Susan Murray, director of the David Hume Institute which partnered on the research, added: “These findings draw attention to the urgent need for action to help those at the sharpest end of surging prices.
“A quarter of people across the country are losing sleep because of worry about their finances and over half of people are cutting back spending.
“The potential long-term impacts on the nation’s health and economy are huge.”