The latest YouGov polls are bad news for the Government for a number of reasons. There is the 6% Labour lead (Lab 43, Con 37, Lib 9) and the 55% who disapprove of the Government’s record so far. But for me the more important statistics were elsewhere in the polls. They appear to reveal the United Kingdom as an anxious nation, with people scared for their futures. Even worse for David Cameron and his team, people are blaming it squarely on the extremity of the government cuts agenda.
It seems that the state of mind of the general public is very fragile at the moment. 70% of those surveyed are worried that people like them won’t have enough money to live comfortably over the next few years. 71% of people worry about suffering directly from the cuts to services such as health, education, and welfare. There are 64% who are in fear of losing their jobs or not finding one. Meanwhile 43% of those surveyed are even scared of losing their homes in the near future.
Now a state of mild anxiety can be useful in making an individual face up to some particular problem. But more extreme cases of anxiety are a common form of mental disorder. Indeed anxiety disorder accounts for 14% of cases of mental disorders in Europe each year. Given that 40% of Europeans are thought to have experienced some mental problem over that period, I make that roughly 5.6% of Europeans suffering from anxiety disorder each year.
Anxiety can be thought of as a normal reaction to stress. In this case the stressor (the cause of the stress) is the Government’s austerity measures. The poll suggests that people see the cuts as being too fast and too deep and even doing more harm than good to the economy. Although they see some form of cuts as being a necessary part of reducing the deficit they also think that the current plan is unfair and having a worryingly negative impact on their lives.
It is not acceptable to keep people in a state of anxiety indefinitely. But as cuts bite harder they are only likely to heighten anxiety. Leading to an increase in cases of anxiety disorder. Even worse, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No foreseeable end to the programme of austerity, hardship, and anxiety. The economy is stalling and the Government is doggedly persisting with the same flawed plan. George Osborne is in danger of damaging the mental health of the nation as well as its economic health.