The Future

13 May 2021

How will HW&H change as we step towards recovery?

When we think about 2020/ 2021, health, wealth and happiness don’t immediately spring to mind. 

A look at the Health, Wealth & Happiness Report’s Future Threats section and the outlook’s bleak for the days ahead. Size up the UK’s fears of the road ahead and we double down … and that’s before making mention of another pandemic, which scientists say is a case of when, not if. 

We’re in, or we’re heading into, a nervous period of transition. But right now – in late April 2021 – there are reasons for optimism.

Cautious optimism

Although the UK was comparatively sluggish to react at the dawn of the Covid crisis, the country has rolled out the vaccine at some pace. As it stands, case numbers are falling and life is easing up. If the above continue, we should see a relatively swift return to more normal economic activity. 

Nina Skero, Chief Executive at Cebr, anticipates a return to economic growth almost immediately – she predicts 4.5% and 4.2% growth in Q2 and Q3, respectively. And with virus cases falling, there are direct positives in store for the Health Index, but also indirectly as hospitals and GP surgeries have more capacity to resume business-as-usual treatments. 

Those who’ve read the Health, Wealth & Happiness Report 20/21 – or at least the headlines – will know that considerable portions of the UK used the enforced downtime of lockdown to pack in exercise and get a handle on their diet. One in four apiece say they got fitter and ate better. Should those patterns continue out the other side, recovery in the Health Index may be speedier still. 

We know from looking at the Health Index that Q2’s low – coinciding with the first wave of the virus – almost immediately recovered to pre-pandemic levels by Q3 with the temporary easing of lockdown restrictions.

Similarly, as the Report explores, the correlation between lockdown and unhappiness will begin to reset. Although people’s satisfaction and happiness levels all headed quickly south during lockdown periods, we saw a natural reversal when lockdown eased in Q3. And we will again. 

Cautious economics

While Covid will cast a long shadow on the three dimensions of health, wealth and happiness, it’s slightly easier to predict near-term ebbs and flows in the Wealth Index. Less so Covid’s impact on mental health, which is perhaps the big middle of the Venn diagram where health meets happiness.
But first wealth, and the most significant impact will come when the furlough scheme starts to taper. This tapering begins in July and is destined to be fully withdrawn by the end of September. 

Cebr expects the end of furlough to be accompanied by an uptick in redundancies, resulting in a peak unemployment rate of 6.5% in the final quarter of 2021. The prospect of increased unemployment – plus potential inflation, increased tax and living costs and oscillating house prices – will pressurise the Wealth Index further. 

But also the Happiness Index. Although happiness measures are less scientific – and more reliant on subjective opinions – it’s true to say that a depressed financial landscape will trigger spikes in people feeling dissatisfied, anxious and fearful. 

Remember also that in mental health and wellbeing, some predict Covid’s impact will last a decade or more. Think about the effect of youngsters missing up to a year of school, the families who’ve lost loved ones, the communities impacted by fallen businesses, or the frontline professionals who had to cope with unfathomable stress and pain.  

The financial impact of Covid, according to the Health Wealth & Happiness Report, 

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