Health, wealth and well-being – November 2010

Doug Edmonds, 2CV managing director, says overall well-being has dropped 3 points from 42% in October to an annual low of 39% in November.

Despite a 3 point drop in the well-being index, it is worth remembering that this has happened in the month where royalists, republicans and anarchists alike were all expected to bask in the vicarious bliss of the Royal Wedding announcement.

Similar declines are recorded across the sub-groups, as satisfaction with health also falls by 3 points to 43%, happiness drops by 4 points to 43% – another annual low – and financial satisfaction has dipped 2 points to 24%; again the lowest level we have recorded since our tracking began in 2009.

What is driving the downturn?
This is not a pleasant picture, but some of this we can attribute to the ebb and flow of the seasons. As the nights draw in and days get colder we expect satisfaction with health to be lower. This is particularly evident if we compare the results now with the data collected during warmer months.

Financial well-being has been relatively robust in the year that we have been tracking it, despite the constant pressure put on the wallets of the nation by the sustained global financial crises. Therefore, to witness it fall two points suggests that the consequences of the economic downturn are finally coming home to roost.

If we consider what impact this could have had on overall well-being, it may be of interest to remember that our analysis of the data collected since November 2009 suggests happiness and health are far more influential on overall well-being than financial circumstances. This has been validated by other large scale studies in the US.

The decline in financial satisfaction is driven by women and older respondents, however the declines in health and happiness are driven predominately by men; this is also the group which is doing most to drag down the well-being measure. Further evidence that financial satisfaction is less impactful on overall well-being than either personal evaluation of health and happiness.

Implications for the Coalition
So Mr Cameron and the Coalition should be heartened, the declines may not be due to a reaction to economic and political pressure but could in fact be down to the culmination of a seasonal trend. If this is true they should in theory be able to continue to rein in spending without too great an adverse affect on our overall emotional well-being.

Arguments have circled that now is a less than opportune moment for the Government to begin measuring the well-being of the nation as it will take as its starting point an artificially deflated base.

If we take the above to be true, we would argue that citizens of the UK, and for that matter human beings as a whole, are a resilient lot when it comes to regard for their finances. A 2009 Gallup study in the US showed that emotional well being maxes out at $75,000 (roughly £45,000 at the time of writing) not an insignificant sum, but certainly not what fortunes are made of.

As such, we would suggest to the Government that measuring well-being is not only a fantastic idea, but the imperative for which heightens rather than diminishes in the face of sustained pressure on the nation’s purse.

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