The cost-of-living crisis could shorten life expectancy in Suffolk, a top health chief has warned.

Professor Mark Shenton, from the University of Suffolk's Integrate Care Academy, said the squeeze on people's disposable cash would affect their health and ultimately how long they live.

"Where people have got less discretion to spend, people are dying earlier than they were in decades gone by – our life expectancy has stalled," he said.

"And in our most deprived populations, it has been shown life expectancy is getting worse. The cost-of-living crisis is not going to make that better."

East Anglian Daily Times: Professor Mark Shenton, from the University of Suffolk's Integrate Care Academy, has worked as a GP in Suffolk for 30 yearsProfessor Mark Shenton, from the University of Suffolk's Integrate Care Academy, has worked as a GP in Suffolk for 30 years (Image: SIMON PARKER)

Prof Shenton, who has spent 30 years working as a doctor in the county, explained deprivation could cause simple health problems to spiral into more complex and dangerous ones. He cited the example of people living in cold, damp housing where mould spores could make conditions like asthma worse.

He said: "The ability to cool ourselves down or to heat ourselves up using electrically driven things is not going to be available to a lot of people."

Amid the costs crunch, this newspaper has launched its Your Money Matters campaign to try and help its readers through the growing cost-of-living crisis.

Concerns have also been raised about the impact the crisis will have on people in the county's mental health.

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind, said: "We have 12 physical and emotional needs and when we experience stress that's nature's way of telling us that one or more of those needs are not being met."

Mr Neal said the cost-of-living crisis could lead to people feeling unsafe and as if they do not have autonomy – two of the 12 identified needs.

He added: "It's those two needs in particular, that that are challenged by the crisis."

Despite his stark warning, Prof Shenton said people in the county could help each other through the crisis.

He said: "We can look at this and wring our hands or we can look at this and think, how, do we work better together to do something positive about this.

"Something along the lines of 75% of the money that our residents of Suffolk give for charitable works goes out of Suffolk.

"I think that is a big challenge, not only for people in positions of senior decision-making but also for all of us to think what do we got to do differently."

What can you do to help people who are struggling with their mental health during the cost-of-living crisis?

Jon Neal, Suffolk Mind boss, said: "We need as a system, a society and as a county to be helping as many people as we possibly can.

"It can be in all sorts of different ways. It doesn't necessarily need to be financially helping people, it could be voluntarily helping people.

"It could just be having conversations with people. Reaching out or writing letters to friends and family. Getting in touch with people that maybe you haven't seen since before lockdown, making those connections is going to help as well."

If you're struggling, you can speak to your local Citizens Advice centre on 0800 0683131, or if you specifically want help with debts you can reach a local debt centre on 0800 3280006. Suffolk Mind can be reached on 0300 111 6000.