Many Europeans are now facing hard choices due to a difficult financial situation and more than one in four of them said they are in a "precarious" situation and over half see a serious risk it will become so over the coming months, with an unexpected expense that could push them into poverty, according to a survey.
This feeling is particularly strong in Greece and France.
As the cost of living, driven by higher energy prices, raging inflation and war in Ukraine, tightens their grip, Pollster Ipsos and French anti-poverty NGO Secours Populaire have set up a "European Barometer of Precariousness and Poverty" for the first time to observe the social situation, opinions, and concerns of people in France, the UK, Germany, Greece, Italy and Poland.
Half of more than 6,000 people polled in the six countries, from June 17 to July 6, told Ipsos that their purchasing power had shrunk over the past three years – mainly due to soaring food, fuel, heating and rent bills.
Read: Soaring inflation threatens to unleash political turmoil across Europe
In this "very difficult context, Europeans do not feel secure." Across Europe, rising inflation is behind a wave of protests and strikes that underscores growing discontent with the spiralling cost of living and threatens to unleash political turmoil.
Europeans have seen their energy bills and food prices soar because of the war in Ukraine. Despite natural gas prices falling from record summer highs and governments allocating over $566 billion in energy relief to households and businesses since September 2021, it is not enough for some protesters, according to the think tank Bruegel.
Energy prices have driven inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency to a record 9.9 percent, making it harder for people to buy what they need.
"Many Europeans have declared falling into financial difficulties. This situation is particularly difficult in Greece, where 51 percent of respondents said they are in this situation," Ipsos said.
Around 55 percent of Europeans feel that there is a significant risk that they will find themselves in an unstable financial situation in the coming months, with inflation continuing to rise in the continent.
Read: Europe sees fastest pace of rate hikes since euro launched
They have little financial wiggle room, with 64 percent of respondents indicating they are unsure of which expense to cut back on because they have already done so. This anxiety is growing in Italy and Greece and now concerns seven out of 10 people.
"More than one in three Europeans said they have had to restrict their travel recently. More than one in five said they have been cold recently and have not turned up the heating at home. One in seven has even had to ask for the help of relatives or take several jobs," Ipsos said.
"Beyond their own situation, the Europeans see the precariousness around them, particularly in their neighbourhoods, with 41 percent observing that there are many precarious people in their neighbourhoods and 30 percent in their close circle or at work. This difficult situation is particularly worrying in Greece, Italy and Poland."