Skip to content

The impact of the cost of living

Our head of behavioural insights blogs on the impact of the cost of living on sport and physical activity levels, and how we're working with our system partners to monitor it.

12th April 2023

by Bev Blackburn
Head of behavioural insights, Sport England

Over the last year we’ve benefitted from taking a collaborative approach to monitoring and understanding increases in the cost of living and its effect on sport and physical activity.  

The cost-of-living increases are due to several converging challenges, including the financial legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict in Ukraine and associated economic sanctions and inflation.

Working with our System Partners, we’ve created the ‘Cost of Living Insight and Research Group’ – a network of System Partner insight and research Leads who meet regularly to share and discuss learning, insight and research plans.

Key insights

What are we learning about the effects of cost-of-living increases?

  • Around two thirds of adults and parents/carers have made changes to their, or their children's sport and physical activity behaviours because of cost-of-living increases.  The type of changes people are making are considered, in the short-term at least, positive, neutral and negative – i.e. 20% of adults are walking/cycling to get to places rather than using the car (an example of a ‘positive’ change).   
  • Existing inequalities are likely to have been widened. People from lower socio-economic backgrounds, disabled people and/or people with long-term health conditions are more likely to agree* that the cost-of-living increases are having a ‘negative impact’ on their ability to be physically active. 
  • Increases in inflation and utility costs are having an impact on sector organisations. Operators and clubs are responding in a variety of ways, such as reducing the number of sessions being delivered, finding alternative venues and increasing membership fees.

See our latest Activity Check-in report on the cost of living.

Read it now

What have we learned from working together?  

From the outset, our focus as a group has been to work collaboratively to bring together what we understand about the cost-of-living increases.

We’ve benefitted from working alongside one another, creating an open environment where people feel able to share, learn, listen, and support each another with ideas and thinking.  

The group has grown organically over time. Starting off smaller in number but, as word about the group has spread, we’ve grown and we continue to welcome new members.

It sounds simple, but setting up a dedicated Teams channel has enabled us to bring new members up to speed as they join and allows us to communicate with one another regularly, between meetings.

Bringing together a broad range of people from a variety of organisations has helped us establish an overall view of what we know, spot gaps in our understanding quickly and draw upon our collective expertise to fill them. 

Another strength of the group has been our ability to share information and learning across a wide network of people, quickly – answering questions like; to what extent is the context changing? How are people feeling? What can we learn and share about how organisations are responding? 

What next? 

One of our next steps as a group is to work with Sheffield Hallam University to bring together and consolidate our collective research and insight.

This is in order to create a central story, focussed on the cost of living, which can be accessed and shared by sport and physical activity organisations and groups.

This will be available in spring/summer 2023. If you are a System Partner and would like to learn more about the Cost of Living Insight and Research Group, please e-mail me.

*when compared to NET adults and other subgroups.

Sign up to our newsletter

You can find out exactly how we'll look after your personal data, but rest assured we’ll only use it to make sure you receive our newsletter, to understand how you interact with our newsletter, and to provide administrative information about our newsletter.