It’s no secret that our well-being has taken a hit with the coronavirus pandemic. In the Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, one of the longest longitudinal studies of its kind, we unsurprisingly found indices trending below what we saw pre-pandemic. There were some positive trends, with vaccine rollouts clearly having a beneficial impact compared to what we found in our most recent COVID-19 Impact Study, from December 2020. But some groups are still struggling.
Women reported lower levels of well-being than men, for example. Non-workers and workers without children are also suffering. A fall in well-being is hardly surprising in the midst of a global healthcare emergency. But for many of these groups the primary challenge is financial health rather than physical fitness.
Women and pre-retirees, in particular, are concerned about their earning potential in light of the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19. Our respondents said they were worried about retirement funds and mortgage bills. And that wasn’t the only cause of concern. Social well-being, too, has been affected by lockdowns and social distancing measures. People are missing time with friends, and again it’s women and pre-retirees who are suffering the most.
Many people are stressed
Overall, we found that 83% of people were stressed, with 13% saying they were not able to cope. From a clinical perspective, this is only to be expected. Stress isn’t always a bad thing—so-called ‘eustress’, which you can experience riding a rollercoaster or watching a scary movie, can lead to heightened resilience and physical achievement—but the COVID-19 variety is a challenge.
In our ancestors, stress served to activate a fight-or-flight response. It was a short-term thing, designed to heighten our senses until a danger had passed. But with coronavirus, that doesn’t work so well. You can worry about catching COVID-19, but you can’t fight the virus and you can’t run away from it, either. And you can worry about running out of cash but fighting or fleeing is unlikely to be much help.
We’re not built for this
Also, these worries aren’t short term. Your body was never made to endure continuous stress for weeks or months. Stress can affect your ability to rest, and indeed in our 360 Well-Being Survey we found there was a decline in people who felt they were getting enough sleep. This ‘coronosomnia’ can lead to mental health issues. That’s not good.
So, what can you do? The first thing to know is that the current state of coronavirus limbo won’t last forever. In many parts of the world, vaccination rollouts are already heralding a return to something like normality in a matter of months, if not weeks. Restrictions are being lifted and social interactions are increasingly allowed.
How to fight back
Take advantage of these growing freedoms but do so at a pace that suits you—not everyone is ready to go straight back to a hectic pre-COVID social life. And be aware that the virus is still out there: get the jab, if you can, and follow the standard advice to avoid infection if you can’t.
If you are experiencing stress in these uncertain times, then take a look at our stress care hub. And contact us if you’re feeling down. Cigna’s mission is to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve. We’re here to help.