While the UK is frequently labelled as a celebrity obsessed nation, finds that when it comes to news, world news and the economy top the list as the nation’s most frequently followed news stories. Latest research from Mintel reveals that, today, as many as four in 10 (39%) Brits follow the world news and the economy”a lot”, with just 10% admitting they have no interest in these areas whatsoever.

In fact, Brits are almost four times as likely to follow these”real news”areas on a regular basis than softer stories such as celebrity gossip. Today, just 11% of Brits admit to following celebrity stories”a lot”while almost half (48%) the nation claims not to follow celebrity news at all.

George Zaborowski, Senior Financial Services Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Media engagement in world news and the economy by UK adults is high. The large majority are likely to at least be aware of what is generally going on in regard to most major news stories. The high degree of attention being paid to topics such as world news and the economy is particularly impressive.”

There are significant differences in consumer engagement by male and females. Almost half (47%) of all men pay a lot of attention to news on the economy versus just three in 10 (31%) women. Meanwhile, celebrity gossip was almost twice as appealing to women then men. Less than one in 10 (8%) of men claim to pay a lot of attention to celebrity news compared to 14% of women.

But it seems that, when it comes to individuals financial status, knowledge is power. Indeed, those who pay no attention to the economy are less likely to have their finances under control.

Today, among Brits classed by the research as having their finances”under control”, just 9% claim not to pay any attention to the economy, while 38% say they pay a lot of attention to the economy.

Despite a fragile and uncertain economic environment, Mintel’s research shows that the majority of UK adults are still doing reasonably well financially. Today, 40% of Brits classify their financial situation as OK, whilst 21% claim to be in a healthy position. Just one in three (29%) are in a tight financial situation, while 7% are struggling and 2% are in trouble.

The large majority of British consumers have felt at least some impact from the economic slowdown. However, after reaching a peak in April 2011 (83%), the proportion of people feeling the impact of the slowdown had declined by December to less than eight in 10 (77%).

Reflective of another year of high inflation, rising taxes, little to no wage growth and low returns on cash-based savings, almost half (44%) of UK adults said that they felt worse off at the end of 2011 than they did at the same stage of 2010. The large majority of British adults express some degree of concern about their prospects in 2012, but relatively few are panicking. The largest group are those who say that they are”concerned, but should be fine”(55%), while one in five (20%) say they are really worried and 3% say things can’t get a lot worse.

And it seems that consumers expect 2012 to be another difficult year. While for the most part they estimate that UK economic growth, interest rates (58%) and house prices (49%) will all remain about the same, people are far more pessimistic about the rate of unemployment (some 70% expect unemployment to be higher while 62% expect taxes will rise). Furthermore, when it comes to their personal finances in 2012, people’s expectations are generally in line with what most expect for the wider economy. In particular, consumers anticipate the pressure on household budgets and savings to continue. Nearly two fifths (38%) of UK adults have been affected, or know someone who has been affected, by pay cuts or freezes. When it comes to redundancies and planned layoffs, one in 10 adults (10%) have been made redundant themselves, while a fifth (21%) say that close friends of family have lost their job.

“The persistent squeeze on household incomes has forced many to adjust their expectations and spending habits – and most consumers expect 2012 to be another challenging year.”George concludes.

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