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Effects of a struggling economy

Here are some of the social effects of the struggling economy:

:: Retail:

There has been a spate of high-profile retail collapses this month, with the likes of music and entertainment store HMV, camera chain Jessops and electricals group Blockbuster calling in administrators.

The battered retail sector also saw a fall in the number of shoppers in December despite a last-minute surge in the week before Christmas.

Shopper numbers dropped by 1.2% across the UK compared with December 2011 as consumers continued to rein in their spending, according to the latest British Retail Consortium/Springboard footfall monitor.

But Poundland and 99p Stores have enjoyed success in the downturn, as the squeeze in consumer spending has increased demand for their products.

:: Holidays:

The number of people who are unable to stretch their finances to an annual holiday has increased.

Almost one in three (29.7%) people said they could not afford a one-week holiday in 2011, compared with just over a fifth (21.4%) in 2007, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The staycation has proven to be a popular option for those determined to take a break, while travel organisation Abta said tried-and-tested destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and the US are set to be in demand this year.

:: Loans:

The amount owed on personal loans has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 14 years as the tough economy suppresses demand for credit.

The total balance owed by consumers on all personal loans was 34.5 billion in December, the lowest figure since August 1999 and almost half its pre-financial crisis peak, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) said.

The BBA said the figure has been in decline for some time, amid low demand for new loans and people trying to clear their existing debts as they shore up their savings.

:: Births:

It has been suggested that levels of unemployment have encouraged women to delay having children.

According to the ONS nearly half of babies are now born to mothers aged 30 or older.

An ONS spokesman said possible influences include uncertainty over the labour market.

:: Interest rates:

2013 has started as a dreadful year for savers, with the average easy access account paying 0.88%, down from 0.91% a year ago, according to financial information website Moneyfacts.

But low interest rates have been a blessing for homeowners. The BBA said households had made high mortgage repayments, reducing net mortgage lending to a "flat balance through much of 2012".

:: Suicide:

An increase in the number of people committing suicide has been linked with the struggling economy.

The ONS reported that 6,045 suicides were recorded among people aged 15 and over in 2011, up 437 or 8% on the previous year.

Stephen Platt, Samaritans trustee and professor of health policy research at the University of Edinburgh, said the impact of the economic downturn might be affecting the suicide rate.

He said that men judge themselves against a gold standard of masculinity, so higher unemployment in the context of the economic downturn may be "particularly devastating".

:: House building:

House building activity fell at its fastest rate for two years last month.

The weak housing performance saw activity in the wider construction sector fall at its fastest rate for six months, according to the latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index survey.

Tim Moore, survey author and senior economist at Markit, said December rounded off a miserable year for the construction sector.

"While some firms cited the unusually wet weather as leading to longer than expected seasonal breaks at the end of 2012, weak underlying demand remains prevalent throughout the sector," he added.

:: Well-being:

A study found one in three workers is being affected by excessive pressure in their job as Britain's employees head for a "well-being meltdown".

A survey of 2,600 employees found that over half worked more hours than normal over the past three years and many expected the trend to continue.

The report by professional services firm Towers Watson said more than a quarter of UK workers have not taken all their holiday entitlement over the last three years, coinciding with redundancies and job cuts across the country.

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