£9.2bn of new debt taken on in past 6 months with 25-39s struggling the most

In their new quarterly update of the Health Wealth & Happiness Study, LifeSearch have found that 14% of Brits have taken out new debt (8% short term borrowing such as credit cards, store cards, Klarna etc and 7% longer term borrowing such as personal loan) in the last six months. Of those that have borrowed more in the last six months, the average sum borrowed was £208 per month. Across the UK that’s a £1.5bn a month and a total of £9.2bn in new debts over the past 6 months.

And the number taking on new debt rises among Gen Y (aged 25-39) – almost a quarter (23%) have taken on new debts in the last 6 months, and they have taken on more too – £244 a month.

But it is not all doom and gloom; 14% of Brits have repaid debts in the last six months, rising to 20% of Generation Y; an average of £319 was repaid per month, totalling £2.4 billion nationwide, and rising to £469 pm among the over 55s.

A further 7% have overpaid on their mortgage, rising to 11% of men and 12% of Gen Y, at an average rate of £319 per month. Furthermore, 39% of Brits claim to have saved some money in the last six months – on average, £281 totalling £5.8 billion a month, which over the 6 months is £34.6bn.

Britons’ Health, Wealth and Happiness has reached its highest level since the Covid-19 pandemic began, rising 22% in the last quarter to a reading today of 91.4, according to the LifeSearch Health Wealth & Happiness Index compiled with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and dating back to 2011.

Emma Walker, Chief Marketing Officer at LifeSearch who commissioned the study said: “It’s encouraging to see the nation’s health wealth and happiness begin to recover again after a long period of uncertainty and anxiety for so many. Unlike the other indices, the Wealth Index has not experienced record lows yet since the pandemic began but it is likely the forthcoming end to furlough and the stamp duty holiday will be felt in the months to come.

“While the record levels of household savings seen in 2020 have fallen as spending has recovered, we’ve found that a significant number of people are still choosing to save, overpay on their mortgage and repay debts, particularly among Generation Y.”

While all three indices reported improvements in the last quarter (April-June 2021) the LifeSearch Wealth Index recorded the smallest change, up just 5% to 90.1 in Q2. All financial indicators improved in the last quarter, except the household savings rate which fell considerably as consumers returned to spending over saving. Earnings growth remains heightened at present (annual growth in total pay stood at 8.6% in both April and May – the largest values on record) and house price growth has been strong facilitated by the ongoing stamp duty holiday.

The LifeSearch Health Index recorded the highest uplift in the last quarter as it rallied by 56% to a reading of 96.2, a marked improvement from its record low when the pandemic began (50.4) and higher than at any point in the last two years (Q2 2019 saw a reading of 99.4).

The study found 60% of all Brits think that health inequality has worsened in the UK in the last six months (rising to 65% of Londoners) and one in 10 of all Brits (10%), has resorted to self-funding their healthcare by taking out private medical insurance (PMI) to avoid NHS waiting times, rising to 21% of those living in Northern Ireland.

A further 37% of young people (and 27% of all adults) have made more use of virtual healthcare such as virtual GPs in the last six months. In fact, the vast majority of protection policies taken through LifeSearch can include value-added benefits such as virtual GP services, second opinion services, counselling and rehabilitation.

LifeSearch have also found that in the last six months, while four in 10 Brits (44%) feel more confident in the NHS and the services it provides, there is still much anxiety and avoidance around seeking healthcare; it found a staggering 38% of Brits with routine check-ups, amounting to 13.2 million people, have avoided these in the last six months, including mammograms, cervical smear tests, blood pressure checks etc, rising to over half of Generation Y (51% of those aged 25-39) and a further 46% of Generation Z (18-24).

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Brits seeking GP appointments have had to wait longer in the last six months and 61% seeking a dentist appointment have had to wait longer. Overall, four-fifths (82%) that are seeking hospital treatment say that waiting times are longer.

Nina Skero, Chief Executive, Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) commented: “The latest Health, Wealth and Happiness findings reflect the strengthening of the economy in recent months. Cebr expects this to continue in Q3, bringing particular benefits to the labour market. To meet higher demand levels, employers are set to take on more staff, putting downward pressure on the unemployment rate. This improvement is set to be short-lived, however, as the upcoming termination of the furlough scheme risks triggering a wave of redundancies in Q4. With this in mind, the end of the year could prove to be a volatile period for the Health, Wealth and Happiness Index.”