This month we learnt that seeing friends and family in real life is one of the most important antidotes to the anxiety caused by coronavirus. But is the “happiness rebound” among Brits set to be thrown off course?

the7stars proprietary quarterly tracking study of 2,000 Brits found happiness levels hit a record low in May among all consumer groups (the lowest recorded over a period of 4 years of tracking).  In the month of May when most people were still suffering the full force of lockdown measures 55% felt anxious – a 31% spike from the same point in 2019.

Yet, stress levels improved dramatically in June, when groups of six people were given the go-ahead by the Government to meet up together outdoors and in household bubbles.  Evidently, seeing friends and family in real life became one of the most important antidotes to anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the happiness recovery was very much felt to be in motion.

This change was especially pronounced amid groups who rely heavily on their peers for contact and support.  Anxiety dropped by 36% for Generation Z (those aged 15-25) in June, while those living in London also experienced a 28% decrease in anxiety compared to May.

This highlighted the pivotal role that friends in particular play when it comes to combating emotional turbulence and feelings of stress.  It’s no coincidence that anxiety levels reduced most in the groups that place the greatest value on having contact with close friends.

Previous research has shown that a person’s friendship circle peaks at age 25: the same age group who experienced the most dramatic improvement in mood in our research. Anecdotally, many talked about the relief and joy of being able to socialise with their friends in real life once again. Londoners also felt this difference acutely once lockdown lifted, perhaps because of the emphasis that city living places on friendships and community ties.

There’s a limit to what virtual connections over Zoom or Houseparty can offer. By going out and meeting loved ones again in real life, some Brits were able to access a potent remedy to feelings of stress and uncertainty caused by lockdown.

Human beings are social animals. Isolation and prolonged social distancing have been a well-documented cause for mental ill-health issues. Longitudinal research also shows that close social relationships are the number one factor when it comes to feelings of happiness and positivity.

Having experienced a “happiness rebound” last month we’d like to hope that this trend will continue.  However, the fear of a second-wave of the coronavirus looms, along with the threat of localized, or even national, lockdowns, meaning the sensitivity of Brits happiness could once again be impacted by their contact and closeness to friends and family.

This presents an opportunity for brands to connect with people through empathy.   Brands can become relevant to the rhythms of consumers happiness – knowing how and when to help.  While brand purpose has recently been at the forefront of communications strategy, it would appear now is the time for brands to really listen and connect with consumers through understanding what’s going on in their lives and being there to support them through it.

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