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January 2021 Revealed as Saddest on Record

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Happiness levels across the UK were the lowest on record this January, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

This year marks the saddest January of the last 10 years, rising above the previously lowest figures in 2012 when the UK entered its first double-dip recession since the 1970s. 

Analysis of the data by the health and well-being provider, (Sheffield-based) Champion Health, found an average happiness score of only 6.4 out of 10 during the last month. This is a significant decrease from the 7.4 average recorded in January 2020. 

The significant downturn at the start of 2021 coincides with England and Scotland entering into a third national lockdown in January, with Wales and Northern Ireland’s restrictions coming into force only a month earlier. 

The figures also reveal that 56% of adults now feel their well-being is impacted by the pandemic, the highest figure since March. Of those in employment, more than half (54%) of adults surveyed last month said that their work is being affected by coronavirus, with current restrictions forcing many to return to remote working once again. 

Research by Champion Health from 2,099 employees has found that a worrying number of adults are also experiencing significant levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

A staggering 90% said that the coronavirus has had at least some impact on their mental health, with 40% of these revealing this impact as moderate to significant.

The company reported that 58% experienced at least mild symptoms of depression between January and December last year and that more than 69% experienced moderate to high levels of stress.

They also found that 26% of employees experienced moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety during 2020. 

Data from the ONS suggests that these figures are likely to increase this year, with the survey revealing that 42% of adults had already reported high levels of anxiety in January alone.

This, coupled with happiness currently being at a record low, highlights the importance of having supportive and comprehensive health and well-being measures in the workplace, particularly whilst employees are remote.

Harry Bliss, CEO and founder of Champion Health, said: ‘Although it’s not entirely surprising, we are concerned that the majority of employees in the UK struggled with their mental health in 2020. From homeschooling, through to finding new ways of working, the pandemic has been tough for all of us, and there have been cracks appearing in workplace health. 

‘Whilst we have seen a shift in focus towards employee well-being in some organisations, it is still low down on the agenda for others. With these figures indicating that the crisis could worsen, I’m urging all employers to prioritise their people’s well-being and to train both themselves and their employees to spot the warning signs of poor mental health and risk. It makes sense viewed from any angle.’

The ONS data has been gathered from their Personal well-being in the UK report and Opinions and Lifestyle Survey which, since May last year, has been focused on understanding the impact of coronavirus on daily life in the UK. 

Champion Health has gathered data through clinically validated questionnaires and a sample size of 2,099 employees who use their platform. 

The well-being provider helps businesses optimise the health and well-being of staff by offering proactive health assessments, data-driven solutions, and online mental health training, designed to reduce mental health problems and low productivity at work. 

For more information and insight from Champion Health about well-being impacts during the coronavirus pandemic, visit their blog post.

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