National wellbeing increased over the last year, according to the latest ONS data, but is still below pre-Covid levels.
However these latest statistics cover the 12 months to March 2022, so this snapshot was taken before the more recent cost-of-living rises which is likely to have a detrimental impact on many people’s sense of overall wellbeing.
The ONS data shows that prior to March, the average rating for anxiety were reducing, while there was an increase in both life satisfaction and happiness. The latter was the largest year-on-year improvement recorded by the ONS since it started collating wellbeing data in 2012.
The data shows a recovery in all the main measures of wellbeing following a significant dip during the Covid pandemic.
Despite this improved picture, many from the employee benefits and wellbeing industry say this data lags the current reality, with far more people now anxious about finances and job security, and mental health problems are escalating as a result.
Employee wellbeing specialist Wealthbrite founder Carla Hoppe says: “This data doesn’t tally with what we’re seeing on the ground. In our experience, there has been a steady downward trend in happiness and satisfaction since the Covid 19 pandemic. Rates of burnout, anxiety and stress are up and now, with the cost of living soaring, we are walking into a national wellbeing crisis.
“Employers need to invest in practical wellbeing support through programmes such as financial education and coaching. The payback is not just happier employees, it is higher rates of retention, loyalty and productivity.”
Kate Underwood HR & Training founder Kate Underwood says: “More employers are taking wellbeing seriously and are seeing the benefits of providing more support for employees. There are various platforms that help with not only mental health but financial wellbeing, which cannot be ignored in the current economic climate.”
Dr Felicity Baker, co-founder at wellbeing specialists, Ultimate Resilience adds: “In the past 12 months through our work with a variety of organisations across the UK, we have seen wellbeing rise up the priority list for both employers and employees.
“Recent research shows that financial pressure is now the leading cause of stress outside of work, outranking parenting, relationships and bereavement. Being in a poor financial situation is having a direct detrimental effect on people’s mental health, producing physical and psychological symptoms such as loss of sleep, poor concentration and reduced motivation. There is an increasing onus on employers to support staff in relation to this issue.”
Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing psychologist Lee Chambers adds: “In some industries, burnout is becoming an ever-growing problem, and the cost of living crisis is putting significant pressure on employees’ financial wellbeing, which impacts their mental health.
“The pandemic has increased employees’ expectations of the support that should be in place, and more budget is being brought into wellbeing. But over the past few months, a range of organisations have been cutting budgets due to the deteriorating economy, and this will damage them in the longer term.
“When it comes to improving wellbeing at work, it’s not the snazzy apps and boring powerpoints, it’s having a strategy to ensure they have what they need to do the job sustainably, are managed like a human, feel safe to be themselves and have some appreciation for the work they do.”