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Britons’ sense of personal well-being has declined sharply over the past three years as financial pressures mount and put a strain on family health, new research from Cigna International Markets reveals.

The findings, part of the 2017 annual Cigna 360° Well-being Survey, reveals that well-being has deteriorated in the UK compared to the 13 countries surveyed. The UK’s ranking in Cigna’s 360 well-being index has fallen from 3rd place in 2015 to 5th in 2016, with the UK ranking in 8th place in the latest survey released today. In terms of well-being, Britain now ranks behind India, Thailand, China, Spain, UAE, Indonesia and New Zealand in the global rankings. 

More than 14,000 people were surveyed globally, including over 1,000 in the UK. The research looked at five main components of people’s sense of well-being: their physical health, their family lives, their social lives, their finances and their work. On each of these criteria, people in the UK said their position had declined during 2016. Family life suffered the biggest fall, with more than half of Britons surveyed said they felt they didn’t spend enough time with their family.

The increasing pressures of working life were also highlighted, with many people feeling their workplace health schemes should do more to contribute to their overall well-being. Over half (54%) of respondents said their company did not value their work-life balance, and only a third (32%) felt their workplace wellness programme matched their needs.

Furthermore, half (50%) of those surveyed said that the current economic environment is having a negative impact on their financial situation. The UK scored poorly on every single financial measure including current finances, provision for retirement, meeting medical needs and maintaining the standard of living.

Commenting on the findings, Peter Mills, Medical Director at Cigna Global Health Benefits, said that he was not surprised:

Today, people are faced with an uncertain political and economic environment, and concerns about the future are inevitably taking a toll on their well-being. People feel that they are not spending enough time with their families, and they’re also worried about the future – for their children, for themselves and for their parents.

Britain’s fall in the global rankings is not only a concern for families, but for businesses as well. It is a clear early warning sign that employers need to start thinking more deeply about how to better support employees’ work-life balance. With half our waking hours spent at work, it will require a combined work-life solution in order to improve the nation’s overall well-being.

Family well-being falls to an all-time low

All family health indicators have declined sharply since 2015, with people in the UK feeling worse about every aspect of family life this year. The biggest falls in well-being were seen in people’s perceptions of their ability to look after their children’s financial needs; only one-third (38%) of respondents feel that they can take good care of these needs.

In addition, parents are feeling the increasing strain of modern life, with more than half (53%) worried that they are not spending enough time with their families. Long-term care for elderly parents is also a major concern, with only one in four (26%) saying they felt they would be able to take care of their parents’ financial needs, and less than two in five (38%) saying they could take care of their parents’ health and well-being.

Averil Leimon, leadership psychologist with the White Water Group said:

Uncertainty and anxiety undermine well-being. In earlier eras, you might believe you knew where you were: you had got a job, a final salary pension that you knew about a long time ahead, and a mortgage eventually paid it off as security. Now nothing feels as clear-cut. One of the most stressful factors is a sense of being out of control, or not having the knowledge that can make it easier to make decisions about your future.

Young at heart Britons and financial well-being

The survey indicates that the Brits are ‘young at heart’; when asked at what age people reach old age, respondents cited 70, higher than the response given in every other country except Spain and New Zealand.

However, with the world’s population over 60 expected to double in the next 30 years, this is a dangerous attitude. Cigna’s research shows that just one fifth (20%) of people in the UK think they will have sufficient money in retirement. This lack of provision is in part because Britons perceive old age as far off, even when they are over 50, creating an “age trap” where they put off saving enough towards retirement.

An equally low number of respondents, only 20% believe they would be financially secure if they were unable to work.Perhaps not surprisingly, those aged 18 to 24 are the age group most concerned about their financial situation if they were unable to work.

Work well-being

The survey clearly showed that people feel their employers should be providing more support for their overall well-being.Unfortunately today, most employees in the UK are not provided with a workplace wellness programme.

Of those that were, more than half said that employer sponsored wellness programmes led to positive health outcomes (58%) and increased employee engagement (54%). However employers still need to go further, with only a third (32%) saying their current workplace wellness programme matched their needs, and more than (54%) of respondents saying their organisation didn’t value their work-life balance,

In addition, some 19% said employer health plans should support well-being by making health checks more widely available, whereas currently only 7% of plans offer this facility, and 18% wanted hospitalization benefits, against 5% of plans that provide them.

In other countries, this type of employer support for well-being is greatly valued by employees. Internationally, 66% of people regard their workplace insurance as an important part of their employment, with 59% saying their workplace wellness programme is an important decision-making factor in whether to leave a current employer. A clear shift in this area demonstrates that well-being is moving from a ´nice to have´ to a ´must have´ benefit for employers to support them in retaining and acquiring talent in their organisations. This compares to only 34% of Britons who value their workplace insurance, and only 30% saying it would influence their decision to change jobs.

Peter Mills, continues:

The UK not only lags behind many other countries in terms of well-being, it also falls behind in the prevention and awareness programmes offered by employers to promote long-term health. To remedy this, we need both support from employers and demand from employees to create the optimum package which will deliver a better work-life balance and improved well-being.

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