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The Reality of Student Life in the Cost of Living Crisis

With rocketing bills, unaffordable accommodation and costly food prices, there is little money left to party, and, well, be a typical student.

The image of freedom that moving to university once promised us has been vastly distorted by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, following straight into the Cost of Living Crisis. Less and less people are willing to advance into higher education as a result of the financial struggles the Cost of Living crisis poses on students, whilst also dealing with academic stress.

The students who find themselves in the position of financial insecurity are at a lower advantage than ever before. The term "poor student" is nothing new, but when everything from food, to rent, to public transport is increasing, where does this leave the already deprived?

For a start, the current cost of living crisis has meant the price of food has increased. This has been due to a number of factors such as scarce resources (including lack of labour), and higher distribution costs. However, this rise in price is forcing students to buy less food, as the amount they can get for their weekly shop budget is getting smaller and smaller, with even the likes of Aldi and Lidl increasing their prices. A prime example of this is with the meal deal, a classic student lunch. Famously £3, the price has increased to £3.90, making what was once an accessible meal now unobtainable for many.

Being unable to afford to fulfil even the most basic human need poses threats on both physical and mental health, causing poorer academic performance and increased anxiety surrounding grades. If this anxiety goes unmanaged, it can end in more severe issues such as depression. Whilst students remain under these levels of stress and anxiety, it can create a vicious cycle in which food becomes unappealing regardless of hunger levels. Studies have shown that a lack of nutrients gained through food causes serotonin and tryptophan levels to deplete, leading to further depressive thoughts.

With rent rates being so extortionate and only predicted to rise, there is an ongoing concern on how to make up funds. A healthy work-life balance whilst at university can be difficult, due to deadlines, extra-curricular activities and social commitments. This makes maintaining a job a challenge, and finding suitable work that fits with availability even more so.

When all funds are going towards necessities, students are often left lonely due to a considerably quieter social life, with even 'cheap' activities becoming expensive, such as going out for coffee or drinks. Losing a support network and falling out of touch socially can be a detrimental factor for mental health, especially when living away from home. Furthering on from this, trying to connect with family from home has been forced into a rarity, as costs of train tickets or fuel is equally as expensive.

Students are now in a position where they are forced to make sacrifices in non-essential activities, like their favourite sport or clubbing with friends, which has unfortunately created a large disconnect in the stereotypical university lifestyle and reality.

All of these factors have created a negative attitude surrounding higher education, and have made it an unappealing choice for young adults. Alternatives such as Open University and apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular as a result of this. This threatens university organisations, as well as the future workforce, specifically in fields that require higher levels of knowledge and skills, such as medicine.

As of now, the UK government have offered little to no financial support for students in terms of increased maintenance loans, yet it is vastly disproportionate from the expenses of day-to-day living as a student. Extra funding has been provided to some universities, with the opportunity for them to offer grants for students most in need. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it has not yet been made accessible enough for the amount of students who need it.

Starting conversations about self-care and mental health have never been more important to students, with many online resources offering advice on these subjects. Explore the article linked below with 5 simple steps on how to improve mental health, all of which are free to practice.

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