Health, wealth and happiness: The festive period

Doug Edmonds, managing director of 2CV, reports that men had the toughest time dealing with the festive fallout this year.

Doug Edmonds
Doug Edmonds

The 2CV Well-Being Index fluctuated over the festive period. There were significant shifts across the nation’s wealth, health and happiness over the two-week period, leaving wealth as the area of people’s lives where they were least satisfied. Health fluctuated significantly across the groups and dropped from 46% to just above a third at 40% post-Christmas. Illness, exhaustion and the reality that bank balances just don’t stretch that far all played a part in consumers’ well-being as we approached the end of 2009.

Findings show that during the week before Christmas, well-being levels reached 44%, with a huge uplift in general well-being, driven by health and happiness. From Christmas Day onwards, this gauge then dipped 8 points down to 36%, reflecting the mood of the nation’s post-Christmas blues. Interestingly, it is men and the grey market which appear to have suffered the most during this period at different times..

When looking at individual aspects, people’s happiness levels rose to 51% in the run up to Christmas, but as we know, the anticipation of the holiday season is far more enjoyable than the holiday itself. Happiness levels plummeted 11 points with just 40% of people reporting they were happy in between Christmas and New Year.

Differences between men and women in well-being attitudes are stark over this period, which may surprise marketers. Female consumers remained more optimistic and consistent in their well-being outlook over Christmas, with no real highs or lows reported across any aspects. On average, 48% of women said they were happy, 40% were satisfied with their health and although quite low, 27% were content financially, which remains consistent with women’s wealth levels year to date.

It is men experienced major changes in their health, wealth and happiness levels during this time. Overall well-being amongst men fell from 46% up to Christmas Eve to just 29% for the period afterwards.

This could perhaps be explained by the fact that men do not feel the impact (financially or other) of Christmas until it has happened, as they are not traditionally involved in the preparations of purchasing presents, organising the family arrangements or planning for the day. Pre-Christmas, men’s levels of health and happiness were above 50%. However, both of these numbers slid significantly after the festivities, particularly happiness, which fell 21 points to 32%, the most significant drop to date. Wealth is also an issue for this group as the average level of financial satisfaction in the first few weeks of December was 28%, which then dropped to just 20% from Christmas Day onwards, highlighting that financial worries plague men’s minds over Christmas.

Young consumers were healthy but appear to have little money, which made them unhappy. Those between 35-54 had a happy and healthy pre-Christmas buzz but awaited the New Year with low expectations of what 2010 will bring them. Meanwhile, the grey market revelled in the joys of Christmas then felt the pinch financially when it was upon them.

Here are the results by each age category:

Young people
Spending all their money and exhausting their well-being levels before Christmas with nothing to look forward to after Santa’s visit seems to be the message that comes back from consumers aged between 16-35 over the festive period. Just under a third (31%) of young people reported to be happy post-Christmas, compared with 46% the week before. The excesses in life appear to have happened before Christmas, as less than a quarter of young people were happy with their finances pre-Christmas and less than a fifth (17%) were happy afterwards. Health satisfaction seemed to be the only positive aspect for this age group, increasing two points to 56% post-Christmas. This could be attributed to the fact that young people are traditionally cared for and looked after by their family unit or partner. For example, young sons or daughters who return home for the festivities will be pampered by parents and loved ones.

Middle-aged band
Christmas has not been a comfortable time for those who ‘prop up’ the economy. There are enduring pressures of job security, exhaustion from being overworked all year and illness setting in as those that take time off try to relax. This is then combined with social pressures to provide a fat turkey and copious presents at Christmas for the family. So it is not surprising that this group’s well-being is suffering. Happiness levels were the worst affected during Christmas, with over half (51%) reporting contentment pre-Christmas, then a staggering loss of 20 points with less than a third (31%) of people able to say they were happy in the last few days before we entered the new decade. In each aspect, levels dropped by over ten points; health dropped 13 points to just 31%; and only a fifth (21%) of people reported to be satisfied with their finances, which may explain why many chose to work over Christmas, with businesses needing to stay open to survive in the poor economic climate.

Grey market
As parents and grandparents enjoy Christmas, a time for family and giving, they are the only group whose overall well-being levels increased during the post-Christmas period, rising by 4 points to 49%. However, this group also saw the most dramatic drop in financial satisfaction across all the groups over the period. In mid-December, 43% reported to be happy with their finances, then the week before Christmas, this fell steeply to just 29%, signifying how the grey market has felt the pinch of Christmas shopping on their bank balance. During Christmas week this increased slightly, leaving only a third (33%) of people aged between 55-74 content. This 33% shockingly remains the highest level of contentment across all age groups.

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