Health, wealth and happiness: Reflections and predictions

Doug Edmonds, managing director at 2CV, looks back at what has influenced the nation’s health, wealth and happiness during 2009 and what is to come in 2010.

Doug Edmonds
Doug Edmonds

We have been measuring and reporting people’s well-being using our Well-being Index for a number of weeks now and will continue to do so in 2010. According to the findings, last year revealed low scores of overall well-being, averaging at 40%. This was due to economic unrest, uncertainty of job security and a sense of ‘living for tomorrow’. This year, we should see a shift in consumer attitudes and general outlook that will raise this index. With this, we hope to draw conclusions as to how events will help change the mood of the nation.

Health, wealth and happiness are key indicators for an economy, alongside GDP. Psychologist and behavioural economics guru, Daniel Kahneman, investigated the relationship between income, GDP and well-being levels. His key finding is that there is a relationship between a country’s economic success and well-being. Furthermore, it is people’s trust in society that has a significant relationship with their self-reported ‘well-being’. So what could happen this year to restore trust back into the heart of the British nation? The main three catalysts for change that I want to discuss are the economy, the highly-anticipated general election and the sporting event of the year, the football World Cup in June.

As we waved goodbye to 2009, we left one of the most economically challenging years on record. If this has prompted a move away from focusing on material wealth and encourages people to make behaviour changes in their own lives that benefit their personal lives and well-being, this will help index scores in the future – so sticking to New Year resolutions could go a long way to improving well-being in 2010.

With Alastair Darling’s predictions that the recession will be ‘short and sharp’ this year, consumers will be looking past short-term aims and focusing on investment, growth and long-term plans in whatever they do, whether it be purchasing shoes or buying a house. This stability in the economy will hopefully be reflected in our well-being index as we see this change unfold.

The general election this spring will definitely signal a turning point in consumer’s well-being. The mood of the nation will reflect consumers need for change as a new or re-elected government comes to power. And while the political scene divides consumer opinion, one event this year that will definitely unite the country is the World Cup. Whether you enjoy watching football or not – the World Cup will be a major catalyst in restoring trust, bringing happiness and encouraging an increase in consumer’s health levels across the nation.

Consumers will use the World Cup as an excuse to socialise and exercise in their local community again. Pubs will be overflowing with die-hard fans and those who want to share the highs and lows. Parks and playgrounds will be filled with local football teams re-enacting England’s finest. Of course, with our reputation in football history, this happiness could be short-lived, but it will certainly give rise to a different attitude and outlook when asking consumers about their well-being and this shift will be captured by the index.

Incidentally, the term “gross national happiness” was coined by the King of Bhutan in 1972 as way of ensuring Bhutan’s fledgling economy also served the spiritual values of the Buddhist nation. So, as we begin the year with a sense of nervous anticipation, I am sure that our “spiritual values” will be served if either the captain of the England football team or whoever wakes up as prime minister on May 7th (or sooner) can restore the population’s trust in society. That, coupled with a steadily recovering economy, means we hope to see well-being scores enter the summer on a high.

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