EVEN though Africa is still reeling under the impact of Covid-19 with surging cases amidst low vaccination rates, it has achieved higher rankings in the physical and social well-being indices compared to a global average across 21 other markets in a survey conducted by American healthcare and insurance multinational Cigna Corporation as part of its annual flagship 360° Well-Being Survey.
In the global study conducted by Cigna in March-April 2021, Africa’s physical well-being index was at 62.4, and ranked higher than the global average of 58.2 with the Middle East levels at 61.3. Similarly, Africa ranked higher in the social well-being index at 64, compared to the global average which stood at 61.6. The annual global study was conducted anonymously online, interviewing 18,043 respondents globally and 2,817 in Africa.
The encouraging physical and social well-being indices came amidst increasing stress levels in Africa. While stress incidences were found to be very high in the African continent at 91 percent, in comparison with a global average of 83 percent, and Middle East levels at 87 percent, according to the study, it reinforces that stress is increasingly becoming less stigmatised in the continent.
The 360° Well-Being Survey, into its seventh year and conducted anonymously across the globe, showed Africa’s overall well-being index at 59.8, which was lower in comparison to the global average of 61.4 and Middle East at 64.7. Africa’s well-being index also registered a drop compared to the 61.2 levels achieved during the pre-pandemic period in January 2020.
In Africa, Cigna operates in partnership with Hollard, a leading African insurance company. Together, they provide comprehensive healthcare solutions to over 250,000 people in Africa, including international assignees, regional expatriates and multinational corporations operating in the continent.
‘Even as the world grapples with the Covid pandemic and its impact, with some markets witnessing a surge in infections, while vaccinations helping others flatten the curve, there are some positive signs emerging from Africa,’ said Leah Cotterill, Chief Distribution Officer, MEA at Cigna. ‘Over the years, both companies have consistently played a pivotal role in harnessing the access to world-class healthcare in Africa. As part of this commitment to a healthier Africa, we are unveiling the 360 Well-Being Index here, which reflects how consumers in the continent feel about their personal health and well-being across five pillars: physical, financial, workplace, social and family wellness.’
Leah added: ‘The report gives us an overview of the impact of Covid-19 on consumer behaviours and expectations. Mirroring global trends, Africa is also witnessing an increase in incidences of stress, overwork, gaps in workplace wellness and overall well-being. It is time to work cohesively to raise awareness and drive positive change on this front.’
The study showed that the financial well-being was down from 43.3 levels in 2020 to 41 in 2021 and was much lower than the global average of 54.1. The work well-being in Africa dropped from 67.3 in 2020 to 65.9 in 2021 and was lower than the global average of 67.9. The family well-being dropped to 65.8 in 2021, compared to 67.2 in 2020, against a global average of 65.5.
Another encouraging trend emerging in Africa was that 57 percent of office-based workers preferred the Work-from-Home option compared to 34 percent in global markets. However, the study also found that 50 percent of the work-from-home employees in Africa are spending longer hours working compared to 39 percent globally.
The top trends from the survey include:
- Adult Africans are more stressed. The pandemic situation has not helped the adult population in Africa. The study proves that financial worries, be it personal or family or the uncertainty about the future is leading to increased stress levels in Africa. Over 48 percent respondents in Africa experience disrupted sleep, 40 percent feel depressed, 38 percent are getting emotional and 43 percent have avoided socialising. A whopping 81 percent have observed their spouse to be stressed compared to 60 percent globally, with 53 percent experiencing mental symptoms. The stress is leading to a drop in respondents getting enough sleep at night with only 39 percent able to get sufficient sleep, compared to 46 percent in 2020. The silver lining is that only 45 percent children in Africa are stressed, compared to 55 percent globally and 56 percent in the Middle East.
- Job satisfaction in Africa is at woefully low levels. The study showed extremely low job satisfaction among Africans in terms of salary packages and employee benefits, slumping to 18 percent compared to a global average of 42 percent. Stability on the job front is another factor which is affecting the work well-being among Africans. From the pre-pandemic levels of 39 percent in 2020, the job stability has dropped to 31 percent in 2021, against the current global average of 60 percent. The study showed high satisfaction levels in workplace relationships [above 80 percent] and opportunity to learn and grow [74 percent] and workload / working hours at 68 percent, compared to 60 percent globally.
- Africans are increasingly looking for a job change. Nearly 48 percent of Africans are likely to look for a job change, which is markedly higher than the global average of 30 percent and the Middle East levels of 39 percent. Although there were less incidences of job changes in the past 12 months in the continent, compared to Middle East and globally, the trend is likely to swing the other way. One of the reasons is that there are gaps in employee needs in Africa, compared to the support infrastructure available to them in other global markets, such as health insurance which allows virtual health consultations or holistic support to help manage the work-life balance.
- Pandemic has worsened the financial well-being across Africa. On an average, less than 10 percent of the respondents in Africa believe that their current financial situation could meet their family’s hobbies, pay mortgage/rent, and ensure financial security in case of emergency, or have sufficient savings/ money for retirement. The Covid pandemic has worsened the situation.
- Whole Health among the priority list for Africans. The Africans are committed to healthy living amidst the evolving situation of the Covid pandemic globally. Whole Health has been rated as very important in the continent, compared to the global and the Middle East markets. A whopping 91 percent rate mental health to be extremely important, compared to 71 percent globally and 80 percent in the Middle East. Also, there is higher resilience in Africa [63 percent] compared to 39 percent globally and 50 percent in the Middle East.
- Increased number of Africans prefer hybrid health consultation. With markets slowly opening, Africans are preferring hybrid health consultations from their doctors and medical practitioners. Around 63 percent in Africa prefer a mix of both traditional and virtual health advisory, which is far higher than the global average of 52 percent. Approximately 27 percent in the continent prefer only virtual engagement, compared to 21 percent globally. The study also showed that over 50% of respondents who went in for virtual health consultation used it mainly for general health advice and counselling.