Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain: September 2020

Estimates looking across personal and economic well-being covering the period from 20 March to 26 July 2020, to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people and households in Great Britain.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

Cyswllt:
Email Gueorguie Vassilev and Sarah Coates

Dyddiad y datganiad:
10 September 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
To be announced

1. Main points

  • Despite lockdown restrictions easing throughout June and July, the number of people who thought it would take more than a year for life to return to normal, if at all, rose from 2 in 10 in mid-June to 3 in 10 by the end of July.

  • While more of the employed population returned to work throughout June and the early part of July, particularly those with personal income between £10,000 and £20,000, this trend stalled in the last weeks of July to about three in four employed people, which may relate to some people taking time off for the summer.

  • Although there was some improvement in finances for those in employment throughout June and early July, with one in four reporting reduced household income at the end of May down to around one in six by 12 July, this trend did not continue in the second half of July; this could in part be explained by differing work patterns for those returning to work, as more people reported reduced hours at the end of July compared with the beginning of July.

  • Financial resilience worsened into July, particularly for parents and those who were renting for which about half of both groups said they could not afford an unexpected but necessary expense by 26 July; this may be because both groups were more likely to report reduced hours and being unable to work from home in July.

  • While there was a general increase in anxiety levels among the overall population, the most vulnerable in society, such as disabled adults, those with a health condition and those who feel unsafe outside the home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, experienced greater increases in anxiety levels at the beginning of July.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

2. Expectations for returning to normal

Figure 1: At the end of July, more people expected it to take more than a year or never for life to return to normal, compared with mid-June

Share of the population on when they think their own life will return to normal, Great Britain, 27 March to 26 July 2020

Embed code

Download the data

Notes:

  1. Question: “How long do you think it will be before your life returns to normal?”. Responses comprise “More than a year or never”, “7 to 12 months” and “Less than 6 months”.

  2. For Scotland, street-access retail reopened on 29 June and non-essential shops inside shopping centres reopened on 13 July.

At the end of July, an estimated 3 in 10 people (30.5%) in Great Britain thought it would take more than a year for life to return to normal, if at all, up from 2 in 10 (21.8%) in mid-June.

This increase was particularly prominent for those who felt unsafe outside their home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with an increase from around 3 in 10 (33.6%) in mid-June to nearly 5 in 10 (45.3%) by the end of July. Anxiety levels also increased for those who felt unsafe outside their home because of the coronavirus pandemic over that time.

Despite more people expecting that it would take longer for things to return to normal, there has been a reduction in the number of people who are worried about the future. Nearly one in three people (32.0%) reported being worried about the future in mid-June, and this decreased to under one in four (24.1%) by the end of July. However, there were some parts of the population who were more worried about the future than others, for example, at the end of July two in every five disabled adults (39.8%), and those with a health condition putting them at higher risk from COVID-19 (38.4%), said they were worried about the future.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

3. People in work

This section is based on data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), while official labour market estimates can be found in the Labour market overview.

Figure 2: Despite an overall increase in participation in work across June, the share of employed people completing some work remained steady in the last two weeks of July and below levels seen before lockdown

Share of the employed population who said they did any work in reference week by annual personal income level, Great Britain, 20 March to 26 July 2020

Embed code

Download the data

Notes:

  1. Question: “Have you completed work in your paid job this week?”.

  2. The base population is the employed population as the question was only applicable if the respondents had a paid job.

  3. Personal income refers to the total annual income for that individual from all sources, gross of tax. Respondents are asked about their personal income and grouped into bands accordingly.

Since the easing of restrictions and with various workplaces being allowed to reopen, such as shops from 15 June for England (slightly later for Wales and Scotland¹), more employed people returned to some form of work across June and the beginning of July, with over three in four employed people working. However, the amount of paid work completed remained below levels seen before lockdown.

This includes those with a health condition putting them at higher risk from COVID-19. For example, 73.4% of those employed with a vulnerable health condition did some work at the end of July, while it had been as low as 47.5% at the beginning of May.

More people are also returning to their usual places of work with nearly half of the working population (45%) reporting not working from home and travelling to work at the end of July, up from just under one in every three (29.9%) in mid-June.

In the last two weeks of July, the share of employed people engaging in paid work did not change, which could be because of a range of factors: being furloughed, taking holiday or sick leave, not having had hours scheduled that week, self-isolating or quarantining, or no longer having a job (an estimated 7.5 million were away from work in June). We will continue to monitor this in the coming weeks. The number of employed people in total has estimated to have fallen. Experimental flash estimates of payroll employees showed a 2.5% decrease in the employed population in July, compared with March when 730,000 fewer people were in paid employment, as seen in the Labour market overview.

In addition, many people are returning to work with a different set of working hours; those in work with total personal income between £10,000 and £20,000 a year were most likely to report reduced hours (up to an estimated 17.6% at the end of July from 8.6% at the beginning of July). This income group was the only income group to see a continued increase in the number of employed people returning to work.

Over one in six people (17.8%) in employment continued to report having reduced household income by early August. This has come down a bit from mid-May (25.5%) but has not seen sustained improvement in recent weeks; since 12 July, the percentage of those in employment reporting reduced household income has not changed significantly, while in the month previous, from 7 June, there was a consistent reduction in people reporting reduced income.

Notes for People in work:

  1. All non-essential retailers in England and Wales were able to reopen from 15 and 22 June, respectively. For Scotland, street-access retail reopened on 29 June and non-essential shops inside shopping centres reopened on 13 July.
Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

4. Financial resilience

The ability to save for the year ahead and being able to pay for an unexpected, but necessary, expense are common measures used to indicate financial resilience. For both measures, there has been no improvement since the beginning of July. By the end of July, around one in three people reported that they were unable to save for the year ahead and were unable to pay for an unexpected but necessary expense of £850.

Younger adults, under the age of 60 years, were less likely to be able to pay for an unexpected expense throughout July. By 26 July, 41.6% of those aged 30 to 59 years and 36.5% of those aged under 30 years were unable to pay for an unexpected expense, while a much smaller percentage (16.1%) of those aged 60 years and over could not afford such an expense.

Those who have a personal income between £10,000 and £20,000 saw the largest rise in the number of people who were unable to pay an unexpected expense. At the end of July, 41.5% of people in this income group were unable to afford an unexpected expense, up from 31.3% at the beginning of July. By the end of July, they were as likely to not be able to afford such an expense as those in the lowest income group up to £10,000.

Parents were particularly affected with nearly half (47.5%) unable to pay for an unexpected expense at the end of July. In addition, 44% of parents reported being unable to save for the year ahead at the end of July, up from 33.1% at the beginning of July. In part, this can be explained by more working parents who reported a reduction to hours worked in mid-July compared with non-parents (15.7% compared to 7.8%, respectively). In addition, more parents reported that they were unable to work from home in July.

More people are also having to borrow money, with over one in eight (13.3%) saying they have had to borrow money or use credit more than usual at the end of July, since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Again, parents were particularly affected, with more than one in five (22.2%) saying they have had to borrow money or use credit more than before the coronavirus pandemic.

Renters were also less likely to be able to afford an unexpected expense, as 63.2% could not afford this at the end of July, compared with 10.6% of homeowners and 25.8% of those who have a mortgage. In part, this could be explained by differences in the ability to work from home; at the end of July, a significantly higher percentage of renters said they are unable to work from home (46.7%) when compared with homeowners (26.2%) and those with a mortgage (28.6%). This could also explain the increase in anxiety seen for renters over this period, as over half of them (50.8%) could not afford such an expense from the end of June.

More recent data published in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain show that the trend of worsening financial resilience for the overall population continued into early August, so we will look into this in more depth over the coming weeks.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

5. Anxiety levels

Figure 5: Between mid-June and early July, the gap in anxiety between some of the most vulnerable groups in society and the overall population slightly widened

Average (mean) anxiety score by parts of the population in Great Britain, 20 March to 26 July 2020

Embed code

Download the data

Notes:

  1. Anxiety is measured on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “not at all” and 10 is “completely” in response to the question, “Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?”.

  2. Question: “How safe or unsafe do you feel when outside your home due to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” with responses including “Very safe or safe”, “Neither safe nor unsafe” and “Unsafe or very unsafe”.

  3. Question: “How often do you feel lonely?” with responses including “Often/always”, “Some of the time”, “Occasionally”, “Hardly ever” and “Never”.

  4. Disability status is self-reported; a “disabled” person is defined as someone who has a physical or mental health condition or illness that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more that reduces their ability to carry-out day-to-day activities.

  5. Underlying health conditions include those who are at highest risk from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The full list of conditions is included in Section 7: Glossary.

From the end of May onwards, anxiety levels remained quite stable and more elevated for the most vulnerable groups of the population.

Anxiety levels remained substantially higher for those who are disabled, those who often or always feel lonely, and for those who feel unsafe outside their own home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic compared with the overall population.

In July, the well-being of disabled adults was more likely to be affected by feeling worried about the future than non-disabled adults, with 4 out of 10 disabled adults saying that their well-being has been affected by being worried about the future. This compares with just under 2 out of 10 non-disabled adults. In addition, the difference between the percentage of disabled and non-disabled adults reporting reduced income widened across the month of July.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

6. Personal and economic well-being data

Annual personal well-being estimates
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Annual estimates of life satisfaction, feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, happiness and anxiety in the UK.

Personal and economic well-being combined estimates
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Full dataset of combined personal and economic well-being indicators included or referenced in the quarterly release, Great Britain.

Quarterly personal well-being estimates – non-seasonally adjusted
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Non-seasonally adjusted quarterly estimates of life satisfaction, feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, happiness and anxiety in the UK.

Quarterly personal well-being estimates – seasonally adjusted
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Seasonally adjusted quarterly estimates of life satisfaction, feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, happiness and anxiety in the UK.

Total population estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Total population estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Those who feel safe and unsafe outside the home split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Those who feel safe and unsafe outside the home split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Country split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Country split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Those with and without a health condition split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Those with and without a health condition split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Those with and without a disability split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Those with and without a disability split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Tenure split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Tenure split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Employee and self-employed split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Employee and self-employed split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Parental split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Parental split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Age group split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Age group split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Income group split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Income group split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Personal and economic well-being indicators
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Information on the main changes and historical trends for the main quarterly personal and economic well-being measures.

Those who do and do not feel lonely split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time
Dataset | Released 10 September 2020
Loneliness split estimates on personal and economic well-being across time according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

7. Glossary

Economic well-being

Our economic well-being measures present a rounded and comprehensive basis for assessing changes in economic well-being through indicators that adjust or supplement more traditional measures such as gross domestic product (GDP).

Personal well-being

Our personal well-being measures ask people to evaluate, on a scale of 0 to 10, how satisfied they are with their life overall, whether they feel they have meaning and purpose in their life, and about their emotions (happiness and anxiety) during a particular period.

Financial resilience

The Resilience Task Force has defined financial resilience as “the ability to cope financially when faced with a sudden fall in income or an unavoidable rise in expenditure”. To assess this, we use a common measure of financial resilience, which is to consider someone’s ability to afford an unexpected but necessary expense as well as people's assessment to be able to save money for the year ahead.

Return to work

To monitor the return to work, we consider the percentage of the employed population who responded “yes” to the question asking whether they did any work in a paid job in the reference week.

Personal income

Respondents are asked about their personal income and grouped into bands accordingly. This is the total annual income for that individual from all sources, gross of tax.

Household income

Respondents are asked about the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on their household income. This is the total annual income from all sources for all individuals in the same household.

Lockdown

Lockdown is the shutting down of all non-essential activities to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the UK, this involved strict limits imposed on daily life including at different stages:

  • people ordered to only to leave the house for essentials such as food, medicine, exercise or care for a vulnerable person
  • the closure of non-essential shops
  • the banning of gatherings of more than two people

The UK lockdown was applied on 23 March 2020. This has formed the basis for each nation’s stay at home guidance. Specific stay at home guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is available. During the period covered in this release, the UK recorded the lowest number of daily cases since the beginning of lockdown on 22 June and there has been easing of lockdown rules, which included reopening of retail shops, being able to form “social bubbles” and reviews of the two-metre social distancing rules. However, the easing of the rules has not happened on a consistent timeline across the countries of the UK.

On 11 May, the UK government published ‘Our plan to rebuild’: the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. The plan aims to return life as close to normal as possible for as many people as possible and as fast as possible in a way that avoids a new epidemic, minimises lives lost and maximises health, economic and social outcomes. The UK’s economy and society have gradually reopened, which includes shops opening from mid-June (differing dates depending on country); pubs, restaurants, bars and hairdressers opening at the beginning of July; and employers being given increased discretion on how they can ensure employees can work safely and return to work.

Specific health conditions

Respondents were asked if they had any of several specific health conditions. The conditions listed were:

  • angina, heart failure or long-term heart problem
  • asthma
  • learning disability
  • conditions affecting brain and nerves
  • cancer
  • COPD, cystic fibroses or another long-term lung problem
  • diabetes
  • kidney or liver disease
  • weakened immune system
  • problems with spleen
  • being overweight (BMI over 40)
  • given an organ transplant

Disability

To define disability in this publication, we refer to the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised “core” definition: this identifies as “disabled” a person who has a physical or mental health condition or illness that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more that reduces their ability to carry-out day-to-day activities.

The GSS definition is designed to reflect definitions that appear in legal terms in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and subsequent Equality Act 2010.

The GSS harmonised questions are asked of the respondent in the survey, meaning that disability status is self-reported.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

8. Measuring the data

Data sources

The statistics in this publication are based on the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) weekly Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), which was created to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on British society.

The data analysed mostly cover the period 20 March to 26 July and consider the impact on measures of personal and economic well-being during the period when many lockdown restrictions began to ease. High-level analysis beyond 26 July can be found in our weekly release on Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain.

The OPN is a monthly omnibus survey. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have adapted the OPN to become a weekly survey used to collect data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on day-to-day life in Great Britain. Throughout the bulletin, analysis using the weekly module from the OPN is used and periods are referred to as per Table 1.

Measuring “people and prosperity”

In November 2010, we set up the Measuring National Well-being programme to monitor and report UK progress by producing accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation. We have pioneered the measurement of well-being in the UK in addition to traditional measures of prosperity, enabling policymakers to make better, well-informed decisions. We have also been monitoring economic well-being by assessing how households are faring using measures of household wealth and disposable income.

Traditionally, we reported our quarterly updates on personal well-being and economic well-being in separate publications; however, a recent user feedback survey suggested the need for more in-depth analysis on the relationship between personal and economic well-being.

In February 2019, we introduced a new series on “people and prosperity” in the Personal and economic well-being bulletins as part of our “Beyond gross domestic product (GDP)" initiative, bringing together personal and economic well-being for the first time. The aim is to provide timely, quarterly indicators and analysis of household financial health and personal well-being. In measuring economic growth, we want to know the extent to which it affects different groups in society. This will make it easier for policymakers and other users to consider questions such as whether changes in the size of the economy, and the distribution of that income, are reflected in our personal well-being.

Quality and methodology information

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Personal well-being in the UK QMI.

For more information on personal well-being, please see the Personal well-being user guidance and harmonised principles of personal well-being.

The framework and indicators for economic well-being used in this release were outlined in Economic well-being, framework and indicators, published in November 2014. Basic quality and methodology information for all economic well-being indicators typically included in this statistical bulletin is available from:

Feedback and future publications

In February 2019, alongside our previous publication, we launched a survey to gather user feedback about our personal and economic well-being outputs. Users told us that our work fitted their requirements well – the language used, analytical detail and visual analyses met their needs. But the feedback also highlighted ways in which we could improve the quality and usability of our outputs such as shortening the length of bulletins. Additionally, there were requests to focus on more in-depth analysis, such as more insights into regional data and inequalities and more information or explanation of more technical aspects.

Over the coming months, we will continue to address feedback and engage further with our users to improve the usability and usefulness of our work. We also aim to better promote our well-being dashboard and explore opportunities to improve our interactive tools. Your feedback will be very valuable in making our results useful and accessible. If you have any questions, please email us at PeopleAndProsperity@ons.gov.uk.

Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

9. Strengths and limitations

Data quality

We first published quarterly data for the personal well-being figures in November 2019 as Experimental Statistics. The aim is to use the quarterly data to explore short-term changes in personal well-being by looking at fluctuations over the years and comparisons over quarters one year apart. Additionally, using quarterly estimates has the benefit of being more comparable with the economic well-being estimates, which use quarterly data for their indicators.

Seasonal adjustment

The data published for our quarterly personal well-being figures are all seasonally adjusted (although non-seasonally adjusted estimates are also available). This aids interpretation by removing recurring fluctuations caused, for example, by holidays or other seasonal patterns. Further information on the seasonality in the quarterly personal well-being can be found in the accompanying Personal well-being quarterly estimates technical report.

Opinions and Lifestyle Survey data weighting

Survey weights were applied to make estimates representative of the population.

Weights were first adjusted for non-response and attrition. Subsequently, the weights were calibrated to satisfy population distributions considering the following factors: sex by age, region, tenure, highest qualification, employment status, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) group and smoking status, though not every factor is used in every week's data because of different sample designs. For age, sex and region, population totals based on projections of mid-year population estimates for rolling months of 2020 were used. The resulting weighted sample is therefore representative of the Great Britain adult population by a number of socio-demographic factors and geography.

Strengths and limitations of the data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey

The main strengths of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) pooled dataset include:

  • timely production of data and statistics that can respond quickly to changing needs
  • meets data needs: the questionnaire is developed with customer consultation, and design expertise is applied in the development stages
  • robust methods are adopted for the survey’s sampling and weighting strategies to limit the impact of bias
  • quality assurance procedures are undertaken throughout the analysis stages to minimise the risk of error
  • pooled data with a large sample size allows for in-depth analysis of sub-groups too small to be analysed on a week-by-week basis

The main limitations of the OPN pooled dataset include:

  • from pooling data across five waves, some week-on-week changes may be masked
  • the weekly sample size is relatively small with fewer completed interviews, meaning that detailed analyses for subnational geographies and some sub-groups are not possible
  • comparisons between periods and groups must be done with caution as estimates are provided from a sample survey; as such, confidence intervals are included in the datasets to present the sampling variability, which should be taken into account when assessing differences between periods, as true differences may not exist
Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys

Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Gueorguie Vassilev and Sarah Coates
PeopleAndProsperity@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 456265  or +44 (0)1329 444256