It seems that people in the UK are becoming less and less satisfied with their health. The Office for National Statistics publishes an annual study into the UK's national wellbeing. The stats provide a snapshot of our satisfaction levels in ten key areas, from where we live to what we do.
As a nation, it appears we’re becoming less and less satisfied with our health.
The ONS study also found that:
“People who reported very bad health had much lower ratings of life satisfaction, feelings that things were worthwhile, levels of happiness and higher ratings of anxiety on average than those who said their health was good”.
So, as might be expected, health satisfaction is central to general wellbeing – but why is our happiness so low?
It’s important to note that the ONS stats are based on self-reported health, rather than the actual state of the nation’s physical condition. We could therefore speculate that it is perceptions and concerns that are causing this downturn in morale.
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, the public’s satisfaction with the NHS was found to have stabilised 61%. Furthermore, those surveyed for the ONS data include both NHS and private patients, so it is difficult to place any blame on the public health system.
However, one potentially worrying factor is that the NHS is failing to meet its targets on waiting times. With the target for an acceptable waiting time standing at 18 weeks, 2.9 million people were waiting for various forms of treatment in January alone. It is easy to imagine how leaving health problems untreated for four months or more would lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Meanwhile, underlying and long term health problems pushing in on us from all sides could be contributing to the sense of unease. It’s not pleasant to think about, but problems such as obesity, stress, dementia, diabetes and cancer are reportedly on the rise. It’s enough to turn anyone into a hypochondriac.
Improving satisfaction with personal health must of course start with the individual, and the way they approach their health. Seeking professional advice on any underlying health problems, no matter how small, is the first step to addressing the problem, despite the rather British tendency to grin and bear it. Meanwhile annual checkups could help set your mind at ease when faced with the media barrage of health scares.
When it comes to waiting times, you may consider a medical insurance policy, which offers quicker access to specialist treatment among other benefits. Some policies also include additional treatments you may not expect, such as visiting a chiropractor or psychiatrist, and even access to helplines – so if you do have a policy, always ask what help is available.
It is of course natural to be concerned about your health and physical wellbeing. However, the World Health Organisation’s constitution defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. In short, take care of yourself in all areas, not just medically; general wellbeing may hinge on health, but good health also depends on you being happy.