Health in the Health, Wealth and Happiness Report: The Pandemic (1/3)
LifeSearch CEO Tom Baigrie hosts Ally Millar, Baz Moffatt, Davinia Tomlinson, Luke Ambler and Nina Skero in the Health, Wealth and Happiness conversations*.
Together with Cebr, LifeSearch compiled three brand new indices to deliver an accurate reading of health, wealth and happiness levels in the UK.
In these three conversations, our experts further pull apart the report, exploring its findings and relating them to their own experiences and expertise.
This episode, the first of a 3-part series, is focused on Health, how we’ve changed priorities and perception through the pandemic, and what’s in store in the future.
Angus Baigrie - Hi everyone, this and the next two episodes of searching for Elephants will be dedicated to LifeSearch's Health, Wealth and Happiness Pandemic Report with data captured by one of the UK leading economics consultancies CEBR. LifeSearch have created three indices in order to track the health, wealth and happiness of the nation. This has been done in the hope that by looking back at the recent past, we can prepare more effectively for the future, and lock into history, the fact that going back at least a decade, our health and happiness levels have never been so low. Here to discuss during and after the most complex, disruptive, unprecedented and anxiety ridden chapter in peacetime are five experts. This first episode is dedicated to health. And the conversation is chaired by Tom Baigrie. Tell the people who are dad.
Tom Baigrie - I'm Tom, I'm the founder of LifeSearch, 22 years ago, and I'm still the CEO now that we're the UK is largest protection advisor. But let's crack on with a question that I think should be the first one up. And I think to you, Nina, because you're our scientist, here today, what surprised you and CEBR most about the many different stats and findings of the health, wealth and happiness data?
Nina Skero - I think something I found really surprising overall is how, in such unexpected ways how the three subsections of the index interacted with each other between the health, wealth and happiness.
Angus - Nina Skero is a speaker, commentator and economist. She is the chief executive of the Center for Economics and Business Research, or CEBR.
Nina - You would think given sort of, especially the the last year or with a pandemic, you would think that, you know, as the pandemic situation worse than that all of the indices would suffer. And actually, we saw some really interesting variations between the three, the three sub headings, I think looking at specifically the health sub index, something I found interesting is that even there, there is a really nuanced picture between what we're measuring within that one, because again, in terms of health, you know could be forgiven for thinking that it hasn't been a good period for any measure of health. But actually, when we look at things like people calling in sick to work, you know, something like that has improved, potentially partially because more people are working from home and they feel like if they're only slightly unwell they can kind of work more flexibly or possibly because all of the measures with the great personal hygiene have helped things like the common cold. So I think it's just really interesting that there we've seen such a nuanced picture in terms of how all the measures are interacting with one another.
Tom - Fascinating. Yes, the overlap. I guess that's why the report is called that because there is an instinctive overlap between the three things. I remember my father's sort of favorite wish he's long dead now. But he used to say, I wish you health, happiness and the wherewithal to enjoy them. That was his version of health, happiness and a bit of wealth I suppose we've got as well as a scientist in Nina, we've got two professional athletes, Luke and Baz with gyms closed and kids at home professional athletes and very fit people will have had to improvise or compromise in their training, what kind of physical and perhaps mental deterioration can that cause the very fit?
Baz Moffat - I think this pandemic has really shown that athletes are human as well.
Angus - Baz Moffitt is a former Team GB rower who won a ton of medals. She is now a coach and co founder of The Well, a consultancy which helps organisations to raise their game in terms of women's health,
Baz - the picture often painted by the major of athletes is like fully focused eyes on the prize, control the controllables. And suddenly, they're now in a place where they can't control what's going on. It's been a really stressful situation for them, especially the Olympic athletes. They were expecting Tokyo last year, and so that was removed from them. And then they then their training venues were removed from them. And especially for women. For men, it wasn't quite so bad. But the women's sport was really decimated. And they often couldn't get back to their training venues. And then they didn't know how to get selected. If there was any selection, how were they going to get selected, and they had sort of five years between one Olympic Games, and now they're gonna have three years before Paris. And I think it's just been a real, a real challenge for them to kind of say, Okay, what can I control? And also, some of them may have been thinking about retirement, like this year or last year, and it's like, well, do I retire? Do I not retire? Like how and I think it's just been really, really confusing for them and, and a real real challenge.
Luke Ambler - Yeah, I think I think it's probably like a lot of people team wise. Like companies, you know, people have been trying to the best haven't they? Do what they can from home but I think the team side of things is probably where most people will suffer.
Angus - Luke Ambler is a former rugby player who left the game early and set up Andy's Man Club after the suicide of his brother in law. Andy's Man Club now has dozens of groups all over the country to help men talk about their mental health.
Luke - as you'll have found with work you know is, I think the thing to look at here, when we're talking about COVID alot it's easy to put people in boxes in it? I think we say that you know, so many people struggle but for every one the struggle there's been been a load that haven't so some teams will have really benefited from this from from the rest you know, you got think of team sports a lot of people injured so I always try and find the positives out of things me and you know, like Baz were just saying then about people going to retire, it's given them a bit of time actually recover maybe some of those niggles they've had and can go again. So yeah, I think people in the in the Rugby World they're back playing now they back playing in stadiums, you know, they're not one of having crowds, so which is pretty good. So I know that a lot of guys were just training from home, try to zoom calls or team quizzes, like we all got bored to death of. But I think I think there's a lot of benefits to come out of all this. teams, for business, professional athletes, wherever you look at, you know, some teams are gonna appreciate the time they had at home, some people are going to see that the connectivity that they've missed from being in person with people, and I think we're gonna see some real benefits out of it, on the field or off.
Tom - That's a fascinating perspective. It give us, give us hope, talking then of more ordinary folk. 30% of full time and indeed, furloughed workers say they feel healthier now than they did what more has the pandemic and lockdown taught us about our health? And do you think we'll see permanent shifts towards better physical health?
Nina - I think many people have experienced the pandemic in very different ways, obviously, you know, at a national level, it has been a horrible year in terms of the health statistics. And we do see that in terms of research, in a sense that the index has, is at record lows, the picture is rather gloomy. However, I can't understand how for some people, if they've been fortunate enough not to be personally impacted by Coronavirus or not to have it sort of in their immediate circle, at least not in a, you know, especially severe or devastating form, I can understand how in terms of other measures, like work life balance, like personal habits, how perhaps it has given them the opportunity to perhaps sleep more if they're no longer commuting, how it could have given them opportunity to cook more at home, which is perhaps healthier than their habits when they're going out. So I do think for for those that have been more fortunate in the grand scheme of things, it has been a bit of an opportunity to restructure their habits.
Davinia Tomlinson - Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, just reflecting on some of the improvements from, you know, from an overall health perspective, and exactly just piggybacking off what Nina said about, for those people that were fortunate enough to have been insulated, there's been a real opportunity to kind of pause and reflect. And I think, you know, Luke talked about, you know, for people that are really physical, and are used to, to obviously, you know, having physical activity with teams, suddenly being quite solitary. I think, you know, it's a challenge at first, you know, you go through those different stages of grief. But when you get to the acceptance stage, there's something about saying, you know, at what point in my life ever, none of us have really ever had an opportunity to be still
Angus - Davinia Tomlinson is a finance expert. She left a 15 year career in investment management to found Rainchq an organization helping women and younger people to take control of their financial futures,
Davinia - you know, where you're not frantically rushing to pick children up from, you know, childcare, you know, you're not rushing to a commute. And suddenly you have that time to say, okay, when you get to the acceptance stage in terms of those stages of grief, and you think, what can I do what is within the realms of my control to to make sure that I can really optimize my health and happiness. And there's a real feelgood factor that I think that's associated with that too.
Tom - Yes, we are talking about 30% of the population, not the 70%. Of course, that's that's the challenge but for the 30 you're absolutely right it seems to me. Ally, you've combed through this and written all about it. What are your thoughts?
Ally Millar - A lot of people have perhaps taken the comorbidity factors in this seriously because we, we saw I think it was something like one in four a piece. People improved or saw practical improvements in their exercise and diet regime, which you know, has to be viewed as a good thing.
Angus - Ally Millar is a former journalist and the founder of creative agency Fall of Man. He authored LifeSearch's Health, Wealth and Happiness Pandemic Report.
Ally - In the beginning of the pandemic, we started to see news reports for the comorbidity factors and how they potentially...
Tom - Ally just explain comorbidity to the the many people who don't work at LifeSearch and won't be immediately familiar with the term.
Ally - Course, comorbidity I suppose in the strictest sense is obesity or a chronic disease chronic lung disease, which was obviously cited in the very early days of COVID. Basically, anyone who has our degenerative or chronic disease and how that may affect their, the way that they host or accept or receive the virus and the implications. What I was building to was that I think we saw that one in four people improve their are either diet and or exercise regimes. And I think, you know, within that we see that there maybe was a move towards improving one's baseline health, perhaps as a response to dealing with the pandemic, or perhaps as a response to the boredom of lockdown. And I think anecdotally, I heard that while men are probably more confident in going out for a run, say, do you think there was perhaps more reluctance on the part of women to go out and exercise off their own back without the facilities of gyms etc?
Baz - Yeah, and I think there was some, there was some fairly high profile athletes who came out quite recently, over the last six months saying how they've been jeered and, and commented on when they were out running in daylight on their own, and then that kind of like, spiraled into this into lots of women sharing their stories about how not just at night time, but also, you know, like, in the daylight and how intimidated they were, by that, and actually how now that gyms have shut, they don't feel safe, or they don't enjoy exercising outside, and also because they couldn't exercise with other people. So yeah, without a doubt, I think that women, and I think that, you know, it just, it all just fed in, didn't it to this narrative around safety and, and how women felt out in public. And, and it was, it was a real reason as to why women were doing less levels of physical activity.
Davinia - And I think the other thing is, you know, we think about, you know, the implications for, you know, between the genders. And given the work that I do with raincheck, focusing exclusively on women, you know, we've really seen that some of the devastating consequences of the pandemic for women's overall, you know, Basil's talked about, you know, from a health perspective, but also, when you think about the disproportionate amount of domestic work and social care that women have had to shoulder as a result of the pandemic, you know, lots of women that have maintained full time or even part time employment, they've still borne the brunt of the lion's share of any childcare responsibilities as well. And then maybe providing caring community for elderly neighbors as well as you know, elderly relatives, whether it's their own or their partners. So I think, you know, there's all of that to be thrown into the mix, too. So I think while some people might have felt like, I really would like to preserve this, you know, the the opportunity to work from home much more than integrate my home life into my work life as well. I think for lots of women, they probably can't wait to get back to the office, where they can actually have a cup of tea while it's still hot.
Tom - I can't speak for them, but I can agree with you entirely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Ally, did you have a point?
Ally - Yeah I mean, it was it was just the fact that we actually pulled the UK public on, what do you find less stressful working at home or working in the office. And two thirds says we prefer working at home. But the the outliers in that group were women and young people. And I think possibly, and I'm not the best, you know, qualified to comment on this, but women seem to really need or crave or enjoy the break between the two. And young people too. I think young people as a result of necessity, plus, you know, circumstance, they're buying houses later, they're having families later. So work family remains their family for longer. They rent for longer, they live with parents for longer. So the work family actually represents a huge social network for them. I think it is really quite telling that moms or parents, young parents in this category. Young parents seem to miss the, you know, the workplace environment and work culture much more so than non parents and women much more so than men.
Tom - understood, understood. It's intrigued me in the report that the stats show that work life/balance that's continued to improve year on year from 2018. How on earth in a year of working from home, does that happen?
Luke - I think I think Firstly, just just looking at the detrimental side of working from home, you know, if we're talking about the mask that we all wear, the hats or the mask or whatever you want to call it, a lot of people use commuting to change that mask, you know, leaving the Luke at home, you know, the home Luke at home going to work working and then and then doing that. And I think there's a lot of stuff that companies are putting in place and people are putting in place just before COVID to start to identify work's work, home's home, I think I'm surprised by that stat actually, because a lot of people I'm working with in organizations are saying they're feeling a big sense of guilt. They don't know when to switch off because they don't want to feel like the taking piss at home... probably, don't know if I'm allowed to swear on here.
Tom - You are, you are absolutely allowed
Luke - Good. can be myself then. Taking piss at home. So like for example, if I worked at LifeSearch, you know I want to go for a coffee, I nip and go get a coffee either buy one or maybe nip to the canteen, you don't have that now, people feeling guilty going down, going downstairs and getting a coffee because they don't want to seem like they're not online like on this zoom stuff. But aside from all that, like in the grand scheme of it, I've think people that are real good shift in the gratitude towards that the time with the kids time with the loved ones really getting a sense of what what is what is important in the life. And I think there's often you know, in organizations probably like LifeSearch or wherever I work, there's often a sense that people want to climb ladder, right. But with every step you hold that ladder, there's sacrifices that's got to be made hasn't there. And I think in some people now are weighing up the balance between more wealth, and their health and happiness. And I know we're going to go through that throughout today. But what what is work life balance in total and it's getting that overall holistic approach to your kids, your partners, your friends, your loved ones, your work, trying to be successful, and all these other balances, which I think is super hard, especially like, I assume you guys are down in London, it's probably a little bit different up north where I'm from, but there is a real desire chase isn't there. And constantly want that next thing, where I think being at all people have gone can't spend my money on anything. You know, I can't go out and do anything so actually getting board games out and doing stuff like, you know, just spending that quality time with your kids doing nothing. And realizing that actually all those days out, and all that other stuff don't really matter. You know, what's important is what's right under your nose a lot of time. So two little perspectives for you there.
Davinia - Yeah, no, I love that Luke, especially the bit about not being able to go downstairs or feeling like, you know, you haven't had an opportunity to transition from those masks, because you're absolutely right. I mean, if people were to see Dav in work persona versus Dav in kind of mom persona, of course, those two different personas are completely different. And what I've seen, you know, since running my own businesses, is that those personas have had an opportunity to converge, because I don't have to wear that corporate mask so much. But two things that I wanted to add to what you just said, Luke, so the first thing is about when we think about work life balance in general, I think historically, you know, conversations around work life balance have led people to believe that it has to mean 5050. So it has to be 50% of your time for work and 50%. For you know, for your general life, when actually for lots of us, you know, if you get a lot of pleasure and a lot of enjoyment and fulfillment from your work, it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing. But exactly your I think you're exactly right. You know, when we think about the the implications of the pandemic, and having people, you know, suddenly reflect on the work that they're doing and going, you know, actually, this has taken so much of my time away from the things that really mattered and the things that I really value in life. What do I want my life to look like? You know, we're thinking about this new normal, what do you want your new normal to be post pandemic?
Tom - Interesting. just focusing in on the data. Luke, you you questioned, didn't question but you were surprised by the the finding in the report that work life balance had somehow improved for lots of people over over this period. And Nina, that that does contrast our findings contrasted with the Harvard Business Review publication in February '21. That said, 80% of people were suffering from burnout during COVID asked that are just so much more positive. Any idea as to why the big difference?
Nina - I would say one thing to keep in mind is that they can seem a little bit of contradictory at face value. But I would keep in mind that in terms of, you know, it's sort of tempting in terms of you know, analysis to talk of the pandemic period is sort of one block of time, that's been consistent and that really hasn't been the case. You know, looking at, at my own experience, which I think in some ways, I'm sure it's different, but in other ways, it's very similar. And around the world, you know, thinking back to last March, I, you know, if you had asked me, then what my experience was, I would have definitely said, you know, leading towards burnout, because it's a bit of, how do we get everybody working at CEBR laptops, home screens? Where am I going to put the home office in my own house? You know, worry about loved ones, where do I buy hand sanitizer? Can I make my own hand sanitizer? You know, both in sort of, you know, in terms of the work life balance and also a lot of a lot of other small considerations that make a meaningful impact on your life, you know, it can be, it can be a mess. So, you know, thinking about that part of the pandemic, I would have said, you know, this is definitely, definitely worse I was, I was very happy at my office, before I love my job, I love my co workers. This is so much worse, if, if I sort of then fast forward to the summer, for example, in the UK, where the restrictions were much, much lighter. And you know, I think of this, oh, I had the flexibility, I would occasionally go into the office and see my co workers, but if I didn't want to, or if I was a little bit tired, I could take the extra time to sleep more and wake up and dial in from home. And, you know, there was this, you know, much more, much happier, much more focus on flexibility. Well, that I would say, you know, in that sense, the pandemic has really improved my, my work life balance, you know, if I, if I have the choice of I haven't doing something today that I feel like the office environment would really be helpful. I can be there if I if I don't, and I just want some peace and quiet so I can get on with my work, then I have that choice. So it really depends on what sort of, you know, time period and what sort of element of the of the pandemic people keep in mind when when they're thinking about the impact it's had on them.
Tom - I think that's a that's a very good point, I certainly have become just incredibly sensitive to the weather. My mood on a sunny day is about five times better than on a rainy day, even a rainy day when I'm doing some really interesting stuff. And I, you know, I'm abuzz with energy or whatever, well, I'm just not quite. I feel like one of those gray clouds, which was never the truth. When I was motorbiking into the city in the pouring rain. I was quite cheerful. But sitting indoors watching the rain and suddenly I 'm a bit like hmmm. But anyway, it's changed things. And also, I don't know if you've noticed this spring, but I'm finding myself like a member of gardener's question time I'm looking at every plant getting goodness me Look at that just got another leaf. Wow. And spring just used to happen around me. I didn't notice it at all. But now I'm I'm passionate about it. Has anyone else found the smaller things in life affecting their mental health? Much more than they used to before? Or am I just a bit of an oddball?
Davinia - For people that, you know, have lived in, you know, lived in big cities during the pandemic. So I, I was living in London during the pandemic. And I think, you know, I live in a part of the city that, that, you know, there weren't very many families around. So it's lots of people that are house sharing, you know, younger people, that are commuting, going out clubbing, you know, being very sociable, I didn't really know my neighbors. But during the pandemic, I mean, we effectively became besties. And they would we would bake for one another, you know, this huge, kind of let's do what we can do, you exercise in your garden, I'll exercise mine, let's wave over the fence. But certainly, I think that there was a real flight to, you know, craving a sense of community. And since we were unable to, you know, meet with our family members and friends, you were forced to become more neighborly, which I think is perhaps one of the nicer outcomes of the pandemic.
Luke - Oh, I just think it's this whole pandemic, you can do every review you want. And I think Nina said it best is what part of the pandemic you found, if you'd have questioned me coming into this pandemic, you know, I'm in charge of you know a support network for 1000 guys a week, which has 248 volunteers who manage all those guys mental health plus three businesses, three kids, I were properly shitting myself when world was shutting down because I'm so used to being busy and bouncing from one task to another that going and sitting in my house. I don't even sit in my house in normal times. I'm just not a home bird. I'm out at the gym, I'm out swimming in reservoirs. I'm out doing whatever I want to do. So like the idea of going home, were crazy for me. And, and I probably think this, this has been such a blessing beyond belief. It allows you to put stuff in place should anything ever go wrong again. If your business suffered it's allowed you to, and I've had, you know, some suffer some prosper, and it made me realize maybe there were some flawed business models there, in terms of what I can learn from, my health, I was four stone heavier going into pandemic than I am now. It's just I think this whole whole period, talking about health aren't we? Mental and physical health. I got battered a bit by some media, I got asked by a journalist, is this pandemic, terrible for everyone's mental health? And I said, No, not everyone. People try to have hooklines and taglines to categorize everyone in a box. I said, No, some, some will benefit from this. And the tagline was 'mental health figurehead says that pandemic is good for our mental health'. Well you can imagine that going on social media, might as well took a shotgun to my legs. Of the hundreds of comments that started going on where they started, some people started getting a little bit aggressive, and that a lot started to come out and say no, actually, I suffered really bad with anxiety, and this has allowed me to slow down. That's one thing that we're all so guilty of. And I don't want to categorize everyone. But we are all in a rush a lot. You know, the biggest skill that human beings have lost his patience. And it's made us be patient cause we had no control other than to be patient. You get told to stay in your house and go out for one hour a day. You love that one hour a day you were out didn't ya? And I remember seeing regular people on that one hour a day, if anyone remembers that far back into lockdown, that one hour a day we were allowed out it were amazing wasn't it? Like that one hour, like you'd stretch it to an hour and one just to be naughty. It was just a good time to be alive that was and that just showed you like how simple being happy and being healthy is like just simplifying, making sure you've got your house in order and loved ones in order. Like we're over complicating the whole thing I think.
Tom - I get you Luke. I really do. And I think that's a lovely place to end the health section on mental health and how collectively we have immediately gone to the the fractional plus points. Through the gloom, we found little reasons to be cheerful. And I think that must be the way of surviving a pandemic is finding reasons to be cheerful.
Angus - Download the report and learn more about it at LifeSearch.com/hwh or for more of the Health Wealth Happiness, facts and figures follow LifeSearch in all the usual social places. And the next conversation on the current and future wealth of the UK is ready for you when you are ready for it. And if you want to hear more of the conversations we're having inside and outside LifeSearch, then you know what to do. Follow, subscribe, and give us that beautiful five star review. Happy listening and see you next time.
Davinia Tomlinson on The Health, Wealth and Happiness Report: The Pandemic (2/3)
Join Davinia Tomlinson, Baz Moffat, Luke Ambler, Nina Skero, Ally Millar and Tom Baigrie as they discuss the findings of the LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Pandemic Report. The second of our 3-part series focuses on wealth and how the picture might change as we move cautiously into the future.
Luke Ambler on the Health, Wealth and Happiness Report: The Pandemic (3/3)
Join Luke Ambler, Baz Moffatt, Davinia Tomlinson, Nina Skero, Ally Millar and Tom Baigrie as they discuss the findings of the LifeSearch Health, Wealth and Happiness Pandemic Report. The last of our 3-part series focuses on happiness and how the picture might change as we move cautiously into the future.