Financial concerns biggest cause of stress for UK adults

Tackling growing inequality is crucial to improving the nation’s wellbeing.
18 November 2016

What makes you feel most unhappy? According to our new research, it’s probably got something to do with money – or rather, a lack of it.

Money worries and wellbeing

It turns out financial stability is the factor that most affects the wellbeing of UK citizens. Our research – published in our report ‘Eudaimonia: How do humans flourish?’ –  has revealed a 52% difference in wellbeing between the most and least financially confident people in society. So, if you’re happy with your finances, we saw a 19% uplift in wellbeing scores, while those who were extremely worried about money saw a 33% fall. That’s quite a difference.

Bigger picture

It fits into a larger narrative too. Britain’s financial inequality gap is said to be widening. Research by Oxfam this year revealed that the richest one per cent of the UK population owns more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth. Another 2015 study by the London School of Economics found that young people in their 20s were 18% worse off than 20-year-olds were just five years ago, indicating the speed of change.

the growing financial inequality in today’s society is enormously corrosive to the wellbeing of those affected
Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

So unfortunately, it looks like more and more people are seeing their wellbeing affected by money worries – and this is only getting worse.

“Sadly, the growing financial inequality in today’s society is enormously corrosive to the wellbeing of those affected,” says Rosi Prescott, chief executive at Central YMCA.

Other wellbeing barriers

Our research uncovered other factors that significantly impact wellbeing too. Lacking good relationships led to a 50% swing in scores, lacking mental stimulation brought about a 48% drop in wellbeing, while a 32% gap was present between the most and least physically active residents in the UK.

“The issues affecting wellbeing in today’s society are complex and wide-reaching” says Rosi, “so it comes as no surprise to see that lifestyle factors including activity, relationships, finances, mental stimulation, and experiences of education, have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.

“It’s now vital that we recognise the importance of working towards achieving a healthy balance of physical activity, mental stimulation, and positive relationships – as a reduction in any of these can seriously undermine our ability to flourish.”

In total, the average Brit scored 6.13/10 on an index for their overall wellbeing, while the three wellbeing statements that the general population were the least likely to agree with were:

  • I’ve had energy to spare (5.0/10)
  • I’ve been feeling relaxed (5.65/10)
  • I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future (5.86/10)

However, there are some clues as to what we can do to get back on track. The activities people reported as most likely to boost wellbeing were ‘being on holiday’ (66%), ‘being with family’ (56%), and ‘when socialising with friends’ (49%).

Learn more about the current state of the UK’s wellbeing and the factors that influence it by reading our full report ‘Eudaimonia: How do humans flourish?'