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HWH The Pandemic Report 2021

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13 min read

by LifeSearch,

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Published 27 Jul 2021

Brits’ health, wealth and happiness reach lowest levels in a decade

  • New Health, Wealth & Happiness Index compiled with Cebr for LifeSearch records lowest score in a decade in Q2 2020
  • Brits’ happiness at record low in Q1 2021 falling 18% from Q1 2020, while Wealth Index bounced back in Q1 2021 to highest level since pandemic began
  • Divided nation as 29% feel wealthier and 25% healthier since pandemic started vs 24% who feel less wealthy and 34% less healthy
  • Lockdown working from home has given adults an extra 44 minutes per day for time for entertainment and leisure and 63% say their work-life balance is just right in 2021
  • Nearly half of UK adults (46%) are less happy now than they were pre-pandemic

The Health, Wealth and Happiness of the UK population reached its lowest level in a decade in Q2 2020 as the events of the last year provided the most dramatic shifts in sentiment impacting these three key elements of our everyday life.

The new LifeSearch Health Wealth & Happiness Index (HWH Index) compiled with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) monitors changes in the three indices individually and combined, dating back to 2011.   

The LifeSearch HWH Index slumped to a rock bottom level of 71.6 in Q2 2020, a quarterly fall of 23%. This far outweighs the previous largest fall of 5% set in Q1 2018, when a bad flu season put downward pressure on the Health Index and a stock market slump caused volatility in the Wealth Index.  More recently, in Q1 2021, the combined HWH Index fell 5% on the previous quarter, although this did not quite amount to the lows of Q2 2020.

Looking in focus at the individual indices -

  • the Health Index tumbled to 50.4 amidst the first national lockdown in Q2 2020, a fall of 43% on the previous quarter and the largest fall in the series, before recovering to 84.2 in Q3 and then fell again in Q4 (75.8) and Q1 2021 (63.0)
  • the Happiness Index also suffered turbulent falls in the last year, with a record low of 76.4 in Q1 2021 and mirrored the same direction of travel as the Health Index, with a dramatic fall in Q2 2020, an uptick in Q3, followed by falls again in Q4 and Q1 2021.
  • while the Wealth Index did fall during the last year (plummeting to 76.3 in Q3) it is not yet as low as seen in 2011 (66.4), and actually rallied in Q1 2021 to 83.6. This was likely held up by Government interventions such as the furlough scheme, stamp duty holiday and the rise in the household savings ratio.

Delving deeper, LifeSearch, the UK’s leading life insurance broker, also polled over 3,000 Brits and found a nation of two halves; those who through a year of lockdown are feeling wealthier (29%) vs those who don’t (24%), and those who feel healthier due to better exercise and diet (25% and 25% respectively) and those who feel less healthy (34% and 29% respectively) compared to at the start of the pandemic. Coupled with this is the stark contrast that almost half of UK adults (46%) are less happy now than they were pre-pandemic.

Emma Walker, Chief Marketing Officer at, LifeSearch who commissioned the study said: “In living memory, matters relating to our nation’s health, wealth and happiness haven’t felt so loaded or emotive. We created a new Index to document this period and lock the UK’s health, wealth and happiness trends into history. The result is a major new addition to the socio-economic conversation that will be tracked long into the future.

“The last year has been like no other and it’s no surprise to see the downward pressure on measures of health, wealth and happiness. It’s also true to say that we found a tale of two halves, some were able to use the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect and make some positive change in their life from saving more money, exercising more or changing diet, while others have suffered in ways that have tested the fragility of our existence.”


In 2020 the Health Index stood at 74.7, the lowest in the last decade and suffered its largest year on year fall (49%) in Q2 2020 as the spread of Covid-19 took its toll. The UK’s death rate was a key driver, yet some aspects saw moderate improvement; the prevalence of sick leave amongst workers fell across much of 2020 while, at the height of the pandemic, the number of GP appointments was down 31% and A&E admissions were down 57% on an annual basis, potentially masking the Index from further lows.

Coupled with this, the study found almost one in three (29%) Brits feel less healthy now in 2021 vs pre-pandemic, rising to 32% of women.  Meanwhile, 25% feel healthier now, rising among younger people (41%).  In addition:

  • over a third of Brits (36%) say they have been comfort eating more in the last year, rising to 43% of women and 49% of young people.  
  • 21% have drunk more alcohol, rising to 29% of 18-34 years olds and 24% of 35-43 year olds.  On the flipside, a further 27% say they have drunk less, rising to 30% of women.  Despite pubs being mostly closed for the majority of 2020, spending on alcohol has not changed dramatically; from £19.30 per adult per month in 2019 to £19.70 in 2021. 
  • a third (34%) of Brits feel they are less fit now than pre-Covid, rising to 38% of women. On the flip side again, 25% feel fitter now vs pre-Covid, rising to 39% among younger people and 30% among those furloughed.

When it comes to our mental health, LifeSearch found far more adults say it has got worse (39%) rather than better (14%) over the course of the last year, rising to 45% of women and 48% of young people.  Weekly survey data published by YouGov points to considerable spikes in the proportion of the UK population experiencing such feelings as stress, scaredness, sadness, and apathy during the pandemic. On each of these measures we saw respective all-time highs of 50%, 36%, 33%, and 24% in 2020.  Despite this, LifeSearch found that only 14% of adults have worked to improve their wellbeing in the last year and a further 24% have done less to actively improve their wellbeing vs pre-pandemic.  Only 9% have sought professional counselling, rising to 17% of 18-34 year olds.


A key issue impacting many Brits’ mental health is work-life balance. The LifeSearch study found that 57% of all workers have worked from home at some point over the pandemic, and ONS data suggests the rising prevalence of home-working has led to an average of an additional 44 minutes per day per adult for entertainment and leisure in the last year. The study also found that more adults now (63% in 2021) feel their work life balance is just about right, up from vs 59% in 2019.

However, almost a third (29%) of the British workforce still feel they work too much, rising among high-earners (35% of those earning £40-50k and 37% of those earning £100k+) and those who work in healthcare (36%), financial services/banking (32%) and manufacturing (31%).

More than a third (34%) of Brits say they have worked more hours since the pandemic started, rising among younger people (42%), those with kids under 18 (42%) and those with high incomes (46% for those earning over £100,000).  In fact, 10.8 million workers1 have worked on average 6.1 hours more in the last year. Greater job demands (43%), time spent not commuting (25%) and finding it hard to switch off at home (24%) were the top reasons for this. While many may have had more leisure time as a result of working from home, it’s not been all plain sailing:

  • one in three (31%) have found it more stressful working from home
  • 34% don’t have suitable home working set-up
  • nearly half (46%) feel cut-off from colleagues

Nina Skero, Chief Executive, Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) commented: “When thinking about the past year, health, wealth, and happiness are not the first words that come to mind for most, yet there is reason for optimism looking forward. Given the continuing vaccine rollout and roadmap for easing restrictions, Cebr anticipates a return to economic growth, with quarterly GDP expansion of 4.5% and 4.2% expected for Q2 and Q3, respectively. The combination of these factors is set to drive improvements in health, wealth, and happiness.

“Nevertheless, there remain considerable downside risks. One of the more significant near-term developments will be the upcoming tapering of the furlough scheme, which is set to be fully withdrawn at the end of September. Cebr expects this to be accompanied by an uptick in redundancies, resulting in a peak unemployment rate of 6.5% in the final quarter of 2021 and thus putting some pressure on individuals’ livelihoods.” 


The economic fallout from Covid-19 translated into a significant fall in the Wealth Index in 2020, which plummeted to 79.5 in Q2, before falling to 76.3 in Q3, but it’s not yet as low as levels seen in 2011 (Q4, 66.4), after the European sovereign debt crisis had rocked the stock market.

To date, Government support has kept unemployment rates low (increasing by just 0.1 percentage points between Q1 and Q2 2020) but a slump in wage growth put downward pressure on the Index. However, the household savings ratio hit a record high of 25.9% in Q2, equity markets rallied and UK house prices have remained resilient, helping to subdue the overall fall in the Wealth Index. In fact in Q1 2021, the Wealth Index rebounded up to 83.6 driven by strong growth across both earnings and asset prices.

Yet, at a more granular level, the LifeSearch study found that the impact of the pandemic on household finances is split across the population; almost one in three Brits (29%) feel better off financially now vs pre-Pandemic, rising to 34% of 18-34 year olds and ABC1s.  Yet, a further 24% feel worse off, rising to 27% of women, 35% of those working part-time, 37% of those on furlough and 35% of those who work in the third sector.

The pandemic has meant that over half (56%) of all Brits have re-evaluated their finances, rising to 76% among those aged 18-34. A quarter (24%) of Brits have saved money; 21% reviewed spending more closely; and 9% have paid off debts. Looking ahead to the second half of 2021, almost seven out of 10 (72%) Brits have concerns for their wealth and finances in 2021 and 25% are fearful of bills rising, 19% wary of new taxes being introduced and 19% fear lack of savings.


The Happiness Index suffered tumultuous falls in 2020, with much of the year characterised by severe uncertainty and restrictions on individuals lives.  Mirroring patterns of the Health Index, between Q1 and Q2 2020, the Happiness Index fell 9.5% reaching a then record low of 84.8, outweighing the last largest fall in of 5.9%, witnessed in Q4 2019, when uncertainty and political division were rife amidst a General Election campaign and instability over UK’s future departure from the EU. The Index rose in Q3 as lockdown measures eased but fell again in Q4 2020 and again in Q1 2021. Q1 2021’s figure amounted to a record low of 76.4.

Almost half of UK adults (46%) in 2021 reported in the LifeSearch Study to be less happy than they were a year ago.  Mirroring this, the 2021 World Happiness Report found the UK fell five places to 18th on the global list as we experienced one of the most dramatic drops in national happiness compared to other nations. Being apart from family and friends (60%) and feelings of isolation (41%) and anxiety (32%) were key reasons people were less content.

Three out of four adults (75%) state that what makes them truly happy - eg freedoms to go where they please and see friends - has changed in the last 12 months, rising to 82% among young people.

The top five things that make people happy in 2021 are:

  What makes people happy in 2021 % of all adults
1.  Time with family & friends  56% 
2.  Travelling  31% 
3.  Having time to myself  29% 
4.  Freedom to go where I want  28% 
5.  Keeping fit and healthy  22% 


Emma Walker concluded: “With the backdrop of lockdown easing and the vaccine rollout ramping up across all adults, we are hopeful that we may see an uptick across the Index in the next quarter. At a granular level, we know from our study that consumers are still concerned about their finances this year and into the future, with worries of tax rises and job losses at the forefront. Now more than ever, it is vital for consumers to protect themselves and their families from any financial shocks such as a loss of income from sickness, injury or death, to give them added peace of mind and security.”

For a full copy of the LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Report, click here.

- Ends -


The Index was compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) for LifeSearch in January and April 2021 and will be refreshed in the coming quarters. The Index is based on a modelling process taking into account a range of data sources covering health, wealth, and happiness and monitoring changes over time. The consumer research was carried out by Opinium Research between 5-12 March 2021 among 3,025 UK adults.

1 In a survey of 3,025 adults, 620 said they are worked who have worked more hours. 620/3025x 52,673,000 (UK adult population) = 10,795,788 or 10.8 million.

For further information, please contact:
Karen Mignon / Kevin Carr, Carr Consulting & Communications
Email: / Tel: 07766 651327
Email: / Tel: 07887 838811

About LifeSearch

Over nearly 23 years, LifeSearch has grown into the UK’s biggest life insurance specialist, offering expert, independent advice to customers around life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection, family income benefit, serious illness cover and business insurance. Over our two-plus-decades, LifeSearch has picked up dozens of awards for company culture, expertise and customer service. We have a TrustPilot score of 4.9 out of 5 (excellent) and came Top #3 in our debut appearance on the Sunday Times’ list of Best Places to Work in the UK –

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LifeSearch have been protecting the life you love since 1998. We've protected over 1 million of families in our time. Read our views and opinions on the latest industry news, and what we have to say on all things Health, Wealth & Happiness. Our content is brought to you by LifeSearcher's and guest writers.
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