Health, wealth and well-being: September

Doug Edmonds, managing director, 2CV, sheds light on the nation’s health, wealth and happiness for September

With the evenings fast drawing in and, if you are to believe a certain element of the press, the annual SAD epidemic close to engulfing the nation’s homes, schools and offices… we thought we’d return to the Well-Being Index to track the state of the nation’s well-being, following its brief hiatus. So, with summer gone and the plug about to be pulled on BST for another year how exactly are the British public holding up? It may please you to know, remarkably well.

After a dismal August where overall well-being fell four percentage points to an annual low of 38%, it seems there has been a return to equilibrium for the nation’s collective consciousness. As well-being increased 3% to leave the last month at 41% overall, this is in line with the average for the year to date.

Health, Wealth and Happiness dip: demographic dependant

The movements in our holistic well-being measure are conveniently mirrored by each of its component parts with self-reported health, wealth and happiness all experiencing moderate declines at an overall level in August. This in turn was followed by an encouragingly robust recovery for all measures in September. Higher social grades drove the uplift but the C2DE demographic groups saw their well-being remain stable. It will be interesting looking forward to October’s results to see the impact on well-being amongst the two social groups once news of the recently announced changes to universal welfare has sunk in.

Working life takes its toll on middle-aged women

In terms of overall satisfaction with health we noted a decline in August where it hit an annual low but the measure swiftly recovered in September. Declines in August were seen across all genders and age groups but were driven primarily by middle age respondents; those most likely to be juggling the competing demands of working life and idle offspring through the summer recess. Tellingly it was middle aged women, probably the group most prone to suffering from the stress inflicted by the summer holidays whose satisfaction with health bounced back most in September.

With Christmas looming… it’s value, not discounts that count

A small decline in satisfaction with wealth in late summer (in line with dip in the retail price index seen in August) was swiftly corrected in September as the perceived solvency of the nation returned to a level just above the annual average. Based on the relative buoyancy of these figures it would suggest that in the all important run up to Christmas marketers should still think carefully before resorting to discounting products that will under value brands. And instead pay heed to the words of the fashion boss, who at the height of the recession, declaimed that he would rather see his product go up in smoke than be forced to discount.

Don’t forget the grey market

It is also interesting to note that the satisfaction with personal finances has held up well amongst over 55s in early Autumn, compared to those who have not yet reached middle aged, in fact it is typically 50% higher. Whilst it is difficult to prove with our data that happiness with personal finances is indicative of a willingness to spend, it is a reminder that it should not be considered a futile investment to continue targeting this group.

The academic calendar determines young people’s happiness

As with health and wealth, in turn a similar pattern was seen in the nation’s happiness: falling away in the late summer and increasing in the early Autumn. Interestingly, all demographic groups experienced some form of notable decline in happiness during August apart from the youngest group (under 34s), that being those most likely to be able to take advantage of the summer months. Therefore in September, the month which marks the start of a new academic year, it is not surprising to report that the largest decline in happiness also occurs amongst the youngest of our respondents.

What does this all mean for the rest of 2010?

So what does this add to our meta-narrative on the state of the nation’s well-being? With nearly 12 month’s worth of data, whilst we can see an impact on measures which correspond closely to specific events of national importance, it may be too early to begin to speculate the emergence of seasonal trends. It is also worth bearing in mind that 2010 has been an exceptional year in many respects, both on the political and socio-economic front. The new coalition governmenthas instigated the most severe recessionary measures the country has experienced in over half a century, which will surely affect our well-being in the coming months… so watch this space

It’s a British thing…

And in this context, what our data does suggest is that the British people have proven themselves, so far at least, to be resilient to the tumult caused by this political and economic maelstrom. In light of the Chancellor’s latest cost cutting spree, we must hope that the positive movement in well-being evident in early Autumn is proven not to be a mere blip but instead is perhaps indicative of the continued rude health of that most fabled of British traits; the ’stiff upper lip’…

Tune in next month.

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