As we approach the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic, we are beginning to see a renewed sense of hope as we see progress being made in the global fight against COVID-19. The approval of multiple vaccinations in countries across the globe and the growing momentum of the vaccination roll-out, are cause for optimism.
In the latest results from our fifth edition of our COVID -19 Global Impact Study, which you can read here, we can see the impact of the first flushes of that optimism borne out in a sense of positivity towards all aspects of well-being.
People are craving normalcy
As people continue to live through the ups-and-downs of lockdowns and restrictions in response to the pandemic, there is an emerging nostalgia for the normality of pre-pandemic life after months of adapting, pivoting and coping. Building on the previous wave of results from October, Thailand fell by 1.4 points amid its largest single outbreak, as well as Spain and Hong Kong which saw continued record lows as pandemic-associated lockdowns continued.
On the flip side, a different picture emerged in markets where the vaccine deployment had commenced, or approval was imminent. The UAE and U.K. saw increases of 1.8 and 1.6 points respectively. These increases were only surpassed by New Zealand and Taiwan, where COVID-19 restrictions were considered successful and had been almost entirely lifted, with overall scores improving by 2.7 and 2.5 points respectively.
Health Fatigue Sets in as Pandemic Drags On
As a global community, people are collectively sharing the experience of the pandemic and its highs and lows and our latest study findings showed that health fatigue has set in. The results from earlier editions of the study showed that people were interested in their physical health, which resulted in many choosing to exercise while staying at home due to lockdowns. However, by December 2020, enthusiasm for exercise seemed to wane which reflected in a decline in a number of markets, including Singapore, Thailand, and the United States.
Family Time Improves in Many Markets
The overall family well-being scores remain robust in most markets as the focus on family continues, which can be a long-term benefit from the pandemic. 40% of people surveyed said that they have the ability to spend time with their family. In many markets, results in this area have been more positive since the last study in October. For example, in the UAE, 57 percent of people said they had high-quality family time in December compared to only 53 percent in October; in Spain it improved from 46 percent to 50 percent; in the UK it improved from 32 percent to 39 percent and in Singapore it improved from 30 percent to 37 percent.
Virtual Health is Here to Stay
The value of virtual health is real, according to Cigna’s latest study results. 59% of people surveyed said they would choose to have a diagnosis virtually, compared to only 41% pre-pandemic. The trend toward increased utilization of health and well-being apps seems set to continue with 80 percent of people globally now reporting that they would consider or would prefer virtual rather than face-to-face engagement when it comes to general health advice, such as nutrition and lifestyle tips.
There is also a strong interest in virtual health for mental health support, such as therapy and counseling, with 69% of people globally saying they would consider or prefer virtual consultations. This is an encouraging sign as there is an opportunity to rapidly expand mental health provision worldwide.
Although the future impact of the pandemic is still uncertain, one thing is clear – Cigna’s latest study findings showed that the ongoing pandemic continues to change people’s outlook on key areas of their life - family, finance, physical, social and work - and this all adds up to an impact on their whole health. This presents a clear opportunity for employers and employees alike to reimagine the future of work, particularly in the areas of general health, mental health and well-being support, in order to deliver improved health outcomes for all.