Wellbeing takes a tumble in Brexit Britain

Family life and finance are dragging us down.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 29 Nov 2017

Wellness is the workplace buzzword of the moment, with everyone from Google, Facebook and their myriad high tech acolytes to the property business getting in on the act: new office building now feature everything from sleep pods, standing desks and ping pong tables to indoor gardens and even roof top running tracks.

All in a bid to put a spring in workers’ footsteps when they are at their daily labours – or make the office so appealing that they never want to leave, depending on your point of view.

But all the wellness pizzazz of free Fitbits and sleep trackers doesn’t seem to be helping Brits to feel much better out there ‘in the field’, as the academics say. In fact if anything rather the opposite.

New research shared exclusively with MT shows that Britain has tumbled down the wellbeing charts faster than a Christmas single in January: in the latest annual 360 Degree Wellbeing Survey conducted by health insurance provider Cigna, Britain comes in at 8th place, behind India, China, Thailand and the UAE amongst others.

That compares to a rather brighter eyed 5th last year, and a positively bushy-tailed 3rd in 2015. Can it be entirely a coincidence that the biggest drop happened in the same year as the Brexit referendum? (Further fuel for remainers’ ire is provided by the fact that both Hong Kong and Singapore – often cited approvingly as a post-Brexit role model by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris J – ranked even worse for wellness, at 10th and 11th respectively).

How we stack up

1. India

2. Thailand

3. China

4. Spain

5. UAE

6. Indonesia

7. New Zealand

8. UK

9. Turkey

10. Singapore

11. Hong Kong

12. Taiwan

13. South Korea

Source: Cigna 360 Degree Wellbeing Survey 2017 – Global Rankings 

The survey – which with a sample size of 14,000 in 13 countries is not your usual back of an envelope effort – concludes that Brits are feeling worse across the board, with deteriorations in scores for physical health, family and social life, finances and work. (What happened to the stiff upper lip?).

But the biggest falls were in the areas of family life and finance. Family wellbeing fell to an all-time low, with 53% saying they do not spend enough time with their families, whilst financial woes are closely tied up with family life too: only 38% of respondents said they felt able to take good care of their children’s financial needs, whilst an ever smaller 26% felt able to take care of the financial needs of aging parents.

Sandwiched in between the rocketing costs of living faced by their kids and the burden of taking over from a state elder care system in retreat, it seems there really is a squeezed middle of working Brits feeling the pinch from both sides of the generation gap.

But the young also have money worries of their own – those aged 18-24 were the most concerned that they would not be financially secure if they were unable to work for any reason.

Employers don’t get off scot free either, with those aforementioned wellbeing schemes getting a bit of a slating. 54% said their employers do not value work/life balance, and only a third felt that workplace wellness programmes matched their needs. (It’s perhaps not much of a surprise that the rest of the world is rather more enthusiastic about employer support for their health and wellbeing that the traditionally sceptical Brits).

There is even evidence that the malaise has spread to those working abroad. Supplementary research found that the glamorous perception of life as a ‘globally mobile individual’ – financial security, enhanced career prospects and enviable international lifestyle – increasingly comes freighted with security concerns rooted in rising political instability and fears over personal relationships and a lack of involvement in family life.

Even for a nation which prides itself on enjoying a good moan, this all sounds a bit much. Isn’t there any good news to take a crumb of comfort from? Well, maybe – Brits are young at heart at least, stating that old age begins at 70, higher than the response given by every other country apart from Spain and New Zealand.

But given that the global over 60 population is set to double in the next 20 years, this is a Bad Thing apparently: because even those terrible old codgers over 50 still think they are 30 years old and are thus failing to make adequate financial provision for their retirement. Tsk Tsk.

Perhaps what this research actually highlights is that wellbeing is a state of mind, and one that is influenced by our sense of the wider world as well as by our working environment. So in turbulent times its hardly surprising if people feel less upbeat than they did, and that’s precisely when employers should be doing their best to support their employees’ wellbeing.  

Image credit: phoenixns/Shutterstock


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