- Record-high 53% in Ukraine struggle to afford food
- 53% worried a lot the previous day, vs. readings below 40% from 2006-2021
- 2022 divergence in life ratings continues in 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the war between Russia and Ukraine grinds on, the economic and emotional costs for Ukrainians are mounting.
A record-high 53% of Ukrainians surveyed in July and August said there were times in the past year when they could not afford food they or their families needed, while nearly half (48%) said they struggled to afford adequate shelter.
The results reflect how difficult the war with Russia has been on Ukraine’s economy – even as the IMF estimates small growth of 1% to 3% in 2023 after a sharp contraction in 2022. Although GDP is recovering slightly, and the Ukrainian and wider EU governments are prioritizing fiscal stability, at least half of Ukrainians are still feeling an economic pinch, particularly when it comes to basic necessities.
Ukrainians who are more vulnerable to begin with, particularly those with the least education and lowest income, are struggling the most to meet basic needs. Notably, nearly six in 10 Ukrainians with lower educational attainment have found it difficult to afford food. Furthermore, there is a more than 30-percentage-point gap between the poorest 20% and the wealthiest 20% of Ukrainians in their ability to afford food and shelter.
Economic Outlook Remains Grim
Beyond struggling to afford basic needs, most Ukrainians continue to evaluate their own living standards as deteriorating. In 2023, 64% reported those standards were getting worse, which is down slightly from 71% in the first few months of the war but still worse than their outlooks in nearly a decade.
Negative Emotions Still Running High
The strain goes beyond the economy, with Ukrainians’ stress, anger, worry and sadness at levels often far exceeding what they experienced before the war.
Negative emotions spiked in 2022, with increases of 21 points for worry, 14 points for sadness, 11 for stress and seven for anger. While negative emotions stabilized in 2023, Ukrainians continued to experience them at sustained high levels.
Life Today Reflects Current Challenges, While Future Life Reflects Optimism
Despite these persistently negative experiences, there is a glimmer of hope for Ukrainians in their optimism about their future lives.
One informative measure for understanding Ukrainians’ life evaluations is the Cantril Scale, in which respondents are asked to rate their current life and future life on a scale from 0 to 10. For the past decade in Ukraine, the trends for present and future were similar, with life in five years just slightly higher, on average, than present life.
After the 2022 start of the conflict, Ukrainians’ ratings of their present lives dropped to 4.6 from 5.3 in 2021 -- likely illustrating the effect the war had on their wellbeing. The metric was steady this year at 4.7.
Ukrainians’ outlook for their lives in the next five years took a different turn after the start of the conflict. People in the war-torn country saw a brighter future than ever, with ratings soaring to an all-time high of 7.9. In 2023, future life, at 7.7, remains higher than prewar levels.
The ongoing war in Ukraine is having wide-ranging effects on that nation’s people. Economic and emotional hardships endured over the past year-plus highlight the ramifications of a prolonged conflict. While the majority of Ukrainians are resolved to fight until victory is achieved, signs of fatigue have emerged.
Economic growth in 2023 has not been sufficiently robust to offset the tangible hardships experienced by many, particularly those in lower socioeconomic brackets. Concurrently, emotional wellbeing metrics indicate sustained, elevated levels of distress and negativity compared with prewar baselines.
Yet, while the overall measures tell a negative story, the stabilizing trends, together with the determination to see the war through and rally around their leadership and military, underscore the resilience of the Ukrainian people. That resilience fuels Ukrainians' unwavering optimism for a brighter future, despite the current challenges.
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