Author Bio ▼

Heather Beach is Founder and Managing Director of The Healthy Work Company and has been running businesses in health and safety for over 20 years. Having run Barbour, SHP and Safety and Health Expo, she is now running her own business. The Healthy Work Company provides solutions which drive the wellbeing agenda to enable thriving in the workplace at all levels. Offering more than simply training, it delivers strategic support for your wellbeing programme. "We are driving the mental health agenda towards how human beings thrive in life – often through work, not in spite of it!" Heather can be reached on [email protected].
May 20, 2020

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Mental Health Awareness Week

Almost 1 in 4 Britons report a positive improvement in mental health during lockdown

Launched during Mental Health Awareness Week, a recent survey looks at the nation’s mental health during the coronavirus lockdown.

HWCLockdownSurvey1

Click on the image to enlarge it.

In May 2020, the Healthy Work Company set out to understand levels of wellbeing and mental health during these uncertain times. With the aid of an online questionnaire, the opinions of 648 people collected. The sample covers a balance of genders and a wide range of ages and geographies.

The report shows a strong swing to extremes in the nation’s mental health with one in four (24%) seeing an improvement to mental health and 8% “flourishing”. Of those questioned, 41% feel ‘about the same’ as usual and a further one in three (32%) reported a decline or negative movement in their mental health.

Other key findings:
• 1 in 3 (33%) strongly agree that “I have felt a greater sense of gratitude for my life than usual”;
• A similar proportion strongly agree that “I have savoured things such as walks, sunsets, food more than I usually do”;
• Just over 1 in 4 (27%) have enjoyed family time more than usual;
• Almost 1 in 3 (32%) report that their communication with friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues has become more open and honest during lockdown;
• More than half are making time for hobbies;
• Those finding more reasons to laugh are one of the most positive groups in terms of their wellbeing with more than 1 in 3 (35%) reporting a positive impact on their mental health;
• 58% of Brits are committing to more exercise when lockdown ends.

This short film highlights some of the findings in a little more detail.

The spectrum of emotions experienced is extreme

HWCLockdownSurvey2

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The image on the right details the emotions participants used to describe their lockdown experience (where the bigger the word = the greater number of mentions of that emotion).

Heather Beach, director and founder of The Healthy Work Company, says: “It is impossible to summarise the lockdown as one single entity, as the emotions span such a wide-reaching spectrum. Whilst frustration and feelings of anxiety come through most strongly, there are many positives that people are taking from the experience such as happiness, relaxation, peacefulness and gratitude.

“The data we collected shows that whilst there is certainly poorer mental health as a result of this period, one in four people have better mental health than before and 8% of those are actually flourishing.

“We have looked at what people are doing in this period and correlated that with what may be helping them to cope better as well as what definitely hinders coping. Across the spectrum, once this period is over, many people are looking to work more flexibly, more from home, and less hours than before.

HWCLockdownSurvey3

Click on the image to enlarge it.

“It is our opinion from having trained thousands of people and conducted organisational wellbeing reports, that our old way of life – with commute, lengthy hours and increasing numbers of things to do at home was not working and if companies want healthy, productive employees then looking at these desires will be important.”

It is only when we separate those who are flourishing from those experiencing negative impact on their mental health that a clearer picture emerges.

Of those struggling with their mental health more than usual

• 44% of those with pre-existing mental health conditions report that the lockdown experience has had a negative impact on their mental health;
• Amongst those drinking more alcohol, 40% report a negative shift in their mental health, and for those consuming more treats, this figure is 36%.

Post lockdown
• 45% want more flexibility at work;
• 58% want to do more exercise;
• 50% want to live healthier.

Factors which may improve flourishing

There are certain mindsets around ‘gratitude’ and ‘savouring’ that appear to link to a positive impact on mental health during lockdown.

HWCLockdownSurvey4

Click on the image to enlarge it.

1 in 3 (33%) strongly agree that “I have felt a greater sense of gratitude for my life than usual” and amongst this group, 14% are thriving. A similar proportion strongly agree that “I have savoured things such as walks, sunsets, food more than I usually do”, with 12% of this group flourishing. Just over one in four (27%) have enjoyed family time more than usual, and 14% of this group are flourishing.

Furthermore, using one’s free time to slow down, become more spiritual / in tune with nature and (re)connect with one’s partner may also offer marginal gains to happiness levels.
The study found that some people have a lot more spare time on their hands (43% agree) whereas many others report being busier. The main benefits of this free time have been to save money and carry out DIY/maintenance. However, these activities don’t appear to have been crucial factors in helping people flourish, with wellbeing levels no greater than the total sample. Analysing the more niche activities, we see increased levels of flourishing amongst those who slow down and enjoy things a little more, get to know their partner better and those who become more spiritual / in tune with nature.

Those experiencing more ‘authentic’ communication with others are more likely to be flourishing.
Almost 1 in 3 (32%) report that their communication with friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues has become more open and honest during lockdown. This is also the group who are most likely to be thriving, with 33% experiencing a positive shift in their mental health. 11% of this group who experience more ‘authentic’ communication are flourishing.

More than 1 in 3 (35%) are making time for old hobbies, but it is finding new hobbies that point to the greatest positive impact on mental health.
During the lockdown, more than 1 in 3 are making time for old hobbies, with almost 1 in 4 have made time for new hobbies.

The lockdown has had wide-ranging effects on people’s wellbeing – over half the population report their mental health levels to have changed since the lockdown came into force. The data showed the crucial factors which may increase your chances of flourishing during the lockdown encompass your mindset, use of your free time and selective use of news and social media. Those who are being grateful and savouring life report a more positive lockdown experience, as do those taking up new hobbies, monitoring their alcohol consumption and taking time to slow down. After the lockdown, people are looking for flexibility in how and where they work, and to be healthier, more sociable and more cost conscious.

Regular exercise, video calls with friends/family, and finding reasons to laugh top the list of positive things we can do during the lockdown

HWCLockdownSurvey5

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Those doing more light exercise than before lockdown are more likely to be experiencing positive mental health benefits. The biggest extremes however are amongst those who’ve stopped or started light exercise as a result of the lockdown. Amongst those who have started light exercise, 10% are flourishing. However, for the small proportion who have stopped light exercise, 40% are experiencing a negative impact on their mental health, and no-one in this group was found to be flourishing.

As we move from socialising in restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars, many people have found video calls the best way to stay in touch with friends and family. Whilst the majority (73%) were already making use of video calling, it is those who have just started this activity who are most likely to be thriving (13% report they are flourishing), as they find new ways to connect with loved ones.

HWCLockdownSurvey6

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Laughter

People who are finding more ways to laugh (16% of our sample) are one of the most positive groups in terms of their wellbeing. 13% are flourishing, with more than 1 in 3 (35%) reporting a positive impact on their mental health. They also appear to be reducing their chances of negative impact on their mental health. Just 1% of those who aren’t able to find ways to have a laugh, or who laugh less, are flourishing. Almost 2 in 3 (63%) of this group report a negative impact of the lockdown on their mental health.

Negative impacts on mental health

We’re drinking more alcohol and having more regular treats through the day…but these aren’t conducive to improving our mental health.
1 in 3 (33%) tell us they are consuming more alcohol and almost 1/2 (44%) are enjoying more treats through the day, like biscuits or sweets. However, neither appears to support an improvement in wellbeing in this period. Amongst those drinking more alcohol, 40% report a negative shift in their mental health, and for those consuming more treats, this figure is 36%. Again, we cannot determine cause and effect here, but the data suggests that alcohol and treats are not making us happier on the whole.

Looking to the Future
When lockdown ends, workers are looking to gain more flexibility and/or work from home more. Outside of work, people are looking to be healthier, spend less and be more sociable.

Get your free ticket to Workplace Wellbeing Show

Search for solutions, guidance and expertise surrounding the critical issue of mental and physical health in the workplace, and join HR and wellbeing professionals at Workplace Wellbeing Show, taking place from 18–20 May 2021 at ExCeL, London.

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