A psychologist at Edge Hill University has backed calls for a real living wage to help households hit hardest by the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut to cope this winter. 

Professor Philip Murphy has joined experts to co-author a new report for British Psychological Society (BPS) that explores how poverty limits the control people have on their lives and to make positive changes

The paper and its recommendations come as a new study undertaken by the Institute for Public Policy Research finds that poverty is driving more than 1.3 million avoidable cases of depression in the UK. 

Professor Murphy, a professor of Psychology and part of the BPS’ Expert Reference Group on Poverty to Flourishing, said: “There is psychological evidence that the mentality of people in poverty can suffer in a variety of ways.  

“Poor nutrition in childhood is associated with poor performance in school. For adults, the stress of coping with poverty reduces their ability to deal with anything but immediate problems. Their ability to plan for the future and improve their position is diminished. Consequently, it is possible to talk of a psychological poverty trap which helps to perpetuate the economic one. A living wage would clearly help to overcome these problems.” 

The study has been published during Living Wage week and urges for a real living wage to help people ‘level up’ their lives. 

As well as a living wage, the paper highlights the clear link between children going hungry and their educational attainment.  

It argues that preventing the negative impact of poverty on children is a far-more cost-effective intervention than attempting to fix the problems after they have happened.  

Ishbel McWha-Hermann, a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and a fellow member of BPS’ Expert Reference Group on Poverty to Flourishing, added: “Psychological evidence shows there is a tipping point where a wage enables an improved quality of life, with the sole focus shifting away from just making ends meet, and to thriving.  

“It needs to go beyond covering basic living costs and enable people to make choices about how they would like to live their life and attempt to ‘level up’. That is why, in Living Wage Week, we are emphasising the importance of a real living wage to help people out of poverty. This should be an urgent priority for policy makers.” 

The Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University offers five undergraduate degrees, four of which are accredited by the BPS. Students will benefit from a research active department with subjects taught from academics who are specialists in their fields.