Enforced lack of necessities, poor health and feeling poor: UK 2012

How does the enforced lack of a necessity relate to people’s chance of having poor health and their own perceptions of their living standards?

The table below shows the odds ratio between those who cannot afford a necessity and various measures of poor health and of subjective poverty. That is, for each necessity, the table shows how much more likely a person who cannot afford that necessity is to be in poor health and to feel poor than those who can afford it.

So looking at the first item in the table, ‘Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day’, those who cannot afford this item are 7.5 times more likely to be in bad health than those who can, 3.2 times more likely to have a long-term illness, 15 times more likely to see themselves as poor all the time, 4.7 times more likely to see their income as a lot below the poverty line, and 5.8 times more likely to think that their standard of living is below average. And so on for each of the necessities.

Children were not interviewed in the PSE survey and so the indicators shown below relate to the adult’s perception of poverty, not theirs. Adult health is not necessarily associated with child deprivation and so this has been left out for the child necessities.

The table is initially ordered by those who have the highest odds of bad health downwards. You can re-order by the other indicators by clicking on the up/down arrow at the top of the column.

Odds ratios for those who cannot afford a necessity by poor health and self perceptions of their living standards

Item/Activity Bad Health Long Term Illness Poor all the time Income a lot below poverty line Standard of living is below average
Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day 7.5 3.2 15 10.2 13.9
Attending weddings, funerals and other such occasions 7.1 3.9 6.1 7 5.7
Fresh fruit and vegetables every day 6.8 3.6 12.6 11.3 10.5
Two pairs of all-weather shoes 6.7 3.1 11.9 7.6 8.7
Heating to keep home adequately warm 6.4 3.4 11 8.8 10.7
Two meals a day 5.6 3.1 20 12.6 12.5
Curtains or window blinds 5.6 2.4 8.2 13.4 9.1
A table, with chairs, at which all the family can eat 5.3 2.8 5.7 6.1 4.5
A warm waterproof coat 5.3 2.7 11 7.6 6.9
Celebrations on special occasions such as Christmas (adult) 5.2 4 12.1 7.4 9.9
Appropriate clothes to wear for job interviews 5.2 2.7 9.4 7.2 7.1
Washing machine 5.1 3.4 8.3 9.4 9.7
Household contents insurance 5 2.5 7.1 7.6 6
Enough money to replace or repair broken electrical goods such as refrigerator or washing machine 4.7 2.3 14.7 11.7 11.2
Visiting friends or family in hospital or other institutions 4.5 2.4 5.7 4.7 5.8
A hobby or leisure activity 4.3 2 7 5.4 6.4
Telephone at home (landline or mobile) 4 3.8 10.2 9.6 8
Enough money to keep your home in a decent state of decoration 3.8 2.1 12.6 9.2 11.4
Regular savings (of at least £20/month) for rainy days 3.5 1.9 11.1 9.9 9.3
Regular payments into an occupational or private pension 2.9 1.8 6.4 5.8 4.8
Taking part in sport/exercise activities or classes 2.8 2.1 5.8 5.1 5.7
Damp-free home 2.7 2.1 3.2 3.3 3.5
Television 2.5 3.5 8 1.6 2.8
All recommended dental work/treatment 2.3 1.6 4.7 3.9 3.4
Three meals a day (child) 21 21 -
Books at home suitable for their ages (child) 17.8 76.8 11
Some new, not second-hand clothes (child) 10.8 8 10.3
A warm winter coat (child) 8.2 14.8 21.1
Fresh fruit or vegetables at least once a day (child) 7.7 8.6 13.2
New, properly fitting shoes (child) 6.8 12.6 9.1
Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent at least once a day (child) 6.4 9.4 10.4
Celebrations on special occasions (child) 6.1 10.6 3.5
Day trips with family once a month (child) 5.9 9.3 5.3
A holiday away from home at least one week a year (child) 5.9 7.9 5.4
A garden or outfoor space nearby where they can play safely (child) 5.9 9.6 6.3
Childrens clubs or activities (child) 4.8 4.5 3.7
Outdoor leisure equipment (child) 4.6 6 5.4
Going on a school trip at least once a term (child) 4.5 4.3 3.5
A hobby or leisure activity (child) 4.3 7.8 3.8
At least four pairs of trousers, leggings, jeans or jogging bottoms (child) 4.2 4.4 6.1
Money to save (child) 3.5 3.7 3.3
Construction toys such as Duplo/Lego etc (child) 3.4 4.3 3.5
Pocket money (child) 3.3 4.3 4.4
Computer and internet for homework (child) 3.2 4.5 2.9
Toddler group, nursery, or play group at least once a week for pre-school aged children (child) 2.8 8.8 3.4
A suitable place at home to study or do homework (child) 2.6 3.2 4.7
Indoor games suitable for their ages (child) 1.7 2.8 4.3
Enough bedrooms for every child of 10 or over of a different sex to have their own bedroom (child) 1.6 2.3 2.4

Download csv file

Source: PSE UK 2012


Percentages in red italics are not significant at the 5% level.

The indicators are defined as follows:

•    Bad Health – this is answering ‘Very Bad’ or ‘Bad’ to the question on how is your general health.
•    Long Term Illness – this is yes to the question on having physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more.
•    Poor all the time – this is answering ‘all the time’ to the question on are you genuinely poor now
•    Income a lot below poverty line – this is rating their household income as being a ‘lot below’ the level of income they think is necessary to keep a household such as the one they live in, out of poverty.
•    Standard of living below average – this is rating their standard of living as ‘Well Below’ or ‘Below’ average.

See the PSE UK 2012 living standards questionnaire, p38 and p50-1.


For every single necessity, those who cannot afford a necessity are more likely to be in poor health and to see themselves as subjectively poor. For some items the relationship is strikingly high - for example, those who cannot afford three meals a day or a warm or a winter coat for their child are over twenty times more likely to see themselves as poor all the time. Most are very high. 

Poor health and self-perceptions of poverty are, in their own right, indicators of poverty and so these odds ratios provide a check, for each of the necessities, on the validity of using the enforced lack of that necessity as a measure of deprivation. The only items where some of the odds are not significant at the 5% level are a 'television', 'indoor games' and 'enough bedrooms for every child over 10 of a different sex' and of these only a television has a majority of the odds not significant at the 5% level. A 'television' has, therefore, been excluded from index of deprivation when examining those who have an enforced lack of multiple necessities.

Additional odds ratios can be calculatated using less tight definitions of self perceptions of poverty by, for example, including those who see themselves as poor ‘sometimes’ as well as ‘all the time’. In all cases, the odds ratios rise substantially. So for example, those who cannot afford ‘new, properly fitting shoes’ are 82 times more likely to feel poor all the time or sometimes than those who have this necessity. For further details on these ratios (not shown here) see ‘Child poverty and deprivation in 2012’ by Gill Main and Jonathan Bradshaw.

The odds ratios were calculated using SPSS Logisitic Regression. For further details see: ‘Producing an ‘objective’ poverty line in eight easy steps: PSE 2012 Survey: Adults & Children’, by David Gordon (forthcoming).

Survey details
See PSE survey details for the sampling size and frame of the PSE UK 2012 Living Standards survey.


First posted:  1 June, 2016

Author: Joanna Mack