Households going without in 2012 and 1999: Britain

This table shows the percentage of households, or for those marked with a (1) the percentage of adults, who cannot afford each of the items and activities seen as necessities for adults. All items and activities were seen as necessities in both 2012 and 1999 apart from those with an asterisk * which were seen as necessities in 1999 but not in 2012. Items and activities with n/a in the 1999 column were not included in that survey.

The items and activities are initially ranked in descending order of the percentage seeing it as a necessity in 2012 (see UK 2012: attitudes to adult necessities). You can rank by the percentage who cannot afford the items and activities in 2012 and in 1999 and by the change in percentage points between 1999 and 2012 by clicking on the up/down arrow at the top of the column. To return to it ordered by the percentage seeing the item as a necessity in 2012 click the reset button.

Households lacking necessities

Adults can't afford 1999 & 2012

Adult Items and activities 1999 2012 Change in percentage points 1999 to 2012
Heating to keep home adequately warm 3% 9% +6
Damp-free home 7% 10% +3
Two meals a day 1% 3% +2
Visit friends or family in hospital or other institutions(1) 3% 3% 0
Replace or repair broken electrical goods(1) 12% 26% +14
Fresh fruit and vegetables every day 5% 7% +2
Washing machine 2% 1% -1
All recommended dental treatment(1) n/a 17% n/a
Celebrations on special occasions 2% 4% +2
Warm waterproof coat 4% 4% 0
Attend weddings, funerals and other such occasions(1) 3% 3% 0
Telephone 2% 2% 0
Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day 2% 5% +3
Enough bedrooms for every children aged 10+ of a different sex to have their own room (3) 3% 9% +6
Curtains or window blinds n/a 1% n/a
Hobby or leisure activity 7% 8% +1
Enough money to keep your home in a decent state of decoration 15% 20% +5
Household contents insurance 10% 12% +2
Appropriate clothes for job interviews(1) 4% 8% +4
Table and chairs at which all the family can eat n/a 5% n/a
Taking part in sport/exercise activities or classes(1) n/a 10% n/a
Two pairs of all weather shoes 7% 8% +1
Regular savings (of at least £20 a month) for rainy days(4) 27% 33% +6
Television 0% 0% 0
Regular payments to an occupational or private pension(2) n/a 30% n/a
Replace worn out clothes with new not second hand clothes* 6% 15% +9
Presents for family or friends once a year* 4% 7% +3
Friends or family around for a meal or drink at least once a month* 6% 11% +5
Holiday away from home, not staying with relatives* 18% 25% +7

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Source: PSE UK 2012, PSE Britain 1999


(1) These items and activities give percentage of adults not households

(2) Percentage of working age adults: taken as men aged 18-65, women aged 18-60

(3) For households with children only

(4) In 1999 this question was 'Regular savings (of at least £10 a month) for rainy days or retirement

* These items and activities were seen as necessities in 1999 but not in 2012

n/a - not asked in 1999



The extent of deprivation across Britain increased between 1999 and 2012.  For 18 out of the 24 items and activities covered in both the 1999 and 2012 surveys, the percentages who could not afford that items or activity rose while for five items and activities it stayed the same and for just one (a washing machine) it dropped. The greatest increase – as measured by the percentage point increase – was for those who cannot afford to replace or repair broken electrical goods – up by 14 percentage points. That is out of every 100 adults, 14 more could not afford this item in 2012 compared to 1999.

All the top three items and activities as seen by the percentage who see that item or activity as a necessity, showed significant increases. Those who could not afford to keep their home adequately warm trebled from 3% to 9% - up by 6 percentage points. Those who could not afford a damp-free home was up by 3 percentage points – from 7% to 10% while those who could not afford two meals a day also trebled up from 1% to 3%.

There was a methodological change in 2012 compared to 1999 in the choice of options relating to activites (as opposed to items) to enable respondents who would like to take part in an activity but couldn't (as opposed to those who did or those who didn't want to) to distinguish between the reason being lack of money or some other cause (such as lack of time or caring responsibilities). In previous surveys there was only the choice of 'can't afford' and not one offering 'any other reason'. The 2012 percentage for those who cannot afford an activity is likely therefore be an underestimate compared to 1999 as respondents in 2012 were provided with this additional choice.

For further details see the Key Findings, Going backwards – 1983 to 2012, and the PSE:UK first report, 'The Impoverishment of the UK'.

For an overview of the causes of this rise in deprivation see Breadline Britain – the rise in mass poverty, by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack (Oneworld, 2015, £9.99).

Survey details

The 2012 figures come from the PSE UK 2012 Living Standards survey and the 1999 figures come from the PSE Britain 1999 Living Standards survey. See PSE survey details for the sample size and sampling frames of both surveys.

First posted: 1 June, 2016

Author:  Joanna Mack

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