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Britain's untouchables

LifeSearch author John Rogers
4 min read

by John Rogers, Marketing Executive

See author bio

John is a Protection expert, having worked in our customer facing teams and best practice teams, and now is immersed in Protection Content and Marketing. See author bio

Published 3 Nov 2022

This year’s Health, Wealth & Happiness data looked into the many means and methods Brits are calling on to cope, stay afloat and buy some financial breathing room in the cost-of-living crisis. 

We’ve learned about Dreams delayed and day-to-day cost-cutting strategies, but what about the untouchables? 

What are Brits unwilling to give up, even in a crisis?

Cars, Netflix … vaping?

Looking at UK data as a whole, people overwhelmingly voted the car at number one. It’s the one thing above all others we’re unwilling to sacrifice. Three in ten (30%) Britons say that use of the car is, for them, a must-have and, interestingly, females are more emphatic about this than males (32% vs 27%). 

While use of the car comes in as a clear number one, second-place is more hotly contested. Still at a national level, Britain’s next few non-negotiables are Netflix, holidays and alcohol. Special mention, a little further down the list, goes to charity giving: one in ten (10%) Brits say this is something they definitely do not want to give up. 

Diving into the gender data and perhaps some stereotypes hold up. After use of the car, females say they’re most reluctant to give up Netflix (18% vs 11%) and hairdresser appointments (17% vs 4%), while males are less inclined to give up alcohol (16% vs 10%) and things like Sky Sport (8% vs 3%) or a sport season ticket (6% vs 1%). 

By age, we see that younger people (18-34) too, aren’t prepared to give up their car but their attachment is less pronounced than the older generations. Ditto Netflix. No, for younger folks the non-negotiables are more social and experience-based: gym memberships, nights out and, for one in twenty (5%), gambling. 

Still, inclusion of nights out on younger Britons’ list of non-negotiables doesn’t align with alcohol spend. As we’ve noted in the last several Health, Wealth & Happiness reports it’s actually the older generations who — in this case by a significant margin — are more attached to their booze. 

And staying with the questionable side of health, it’s also interesting that — for all we read about vaping being a new scourge for young people — one in ten (10%) in the older 35-54 age range say they’d be most reluctant to give up their e-cigs. 

Does anyone see a silver lining?

In the questions we ask our representative sample we do like to look for the positives. If they exist, that is. In our landmark Covid Health, Wealth & Happiness Report – published in May 2021 — there were big wrinkles in the data that showed how people found a new appreciation for friends and family; nature and the little things. 

During Covid we saw that many enjoyed being able to skip the commute and work from home. Some became more waste-conscious and /or hygiene-aware and/ or they found new hobbies to get through those lockdown days.

And some of that same spirit of positivity is alive and well into 2022, despite the most acute economic hardship we’ve had in a lifetime.

Less materialistic, more efficient

Silver linings, then, and over one in three (35%) Brits say they’ve learnt to be less wasteful with food, while more than one in four (27%) say they’ve embraced budgeting. Similarly, one in four (26%) say they’ve learnt to be less materialistic, and the same number more energy-efficient (25%). 

More than one in five females (21%) say they’ve learned to cook from scratch and now rely less on takeaway food, while one in 10 (10%) Brits say they’re now growing their own food. One in 20 (5%) say they now volunteer with charities, community organisations and food banks and this rises to 9% of 18-34-year-olds. 

What’s interesting, as you’ll see from the report chart, is that these mindsets and behaviour shifts occur pan-income. Those Brits with an income of less than £10,000 p/a are just as likely as those who earn £100,000+ p/a to say that they’re now less wasteful with food. 

Small graces

To pull out some interesting demographic nuggets, we see that females say they’re now less wasteful with food than males (42% vs 27%) and nearly double the number of females say they’re not as materialistic (33% vs 18% of males) as they once were.

Younger folks (18-34) are more likely to now grow their own food (14%), support food banks/ charity (9%) and express a new desire to simply live for today (20%) than their older peers. 

It’s the 35-54s who have most embraced energy alternatives (18%) and you’re more likely to find people who say they’re less materialistic (28%) and more likely to recycle / use less plastic (23%) in the over-55 age group.

Further reading

To explore the ways in which different UK demographics, regions, households and families are coping with the vice-like squeeze on their incomes, you can read blogs stemming from the Health, Wealth & Happiness Hub, or you can read the report in full.
LifeSearch author John Rogers
John Rogers Marketing Executive
A ‘Searcher since 2015, John is a Protection expert having worked in our customer facing teams and best practice teams, and now is immersed in Protection Content and Marketing.
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