Participants were asked to consider what impacts on their health and wellbeing. Firstly they were asked to consider how they would describe their physical health and their happiness and emotions at the moment. Then go on to talk about what impacts on both physical health and happiness and emotions.
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In describing their physical health at the moment some people said their health is good, when they did they attributed these factors to enhancing good physical health:
They like to walk.
They use the gym.
They feel much healthier because they have given up smoking, drinking, caffeine or wheat.
Some of our participants are living with disability, long terms conditions or recurring illness. These include poor mobility, angina, visual impairments, arthritis, asthma, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Many participants described poor physical health. They described their physical health in the following terms:
There can be side effects from treatments for long term conditions which impact negatively on day to day health.
Many people described poor sleep which leaves them feeling worn out or exhausted and unable to cope with the day ahead.
Anxiety affects the day to day life of some of our participants.
Some people have a poor body image, they recognise they are worried about their weight, that this influences how they feel about themselves, but often they feel unable to make changes.
Tiredness and a lack of energy affects some of our participants, they talked about the need for a pick me up.
In describing their happiness and emotions at the moment some people describe these positively. This positive emotional state was attributed to:
Enjoying being a mum or a dad or a grandparent.
Being in love or feeling lucky to have a good partner in their lives.
A general sense of being happy go lucky throughout life.
An attitude toward life that is about taking things as they come.
Feeling proud of what has been achieved through a long life.
Enjoying good company and getting on with people.
Enjoying music and dancing.
Many participants described a poor emotional state. They reported:
That it’s hard to feel positive about life.
Feeling lonely and unsupported.
Feeling that they have no or little control over what happens in their lives.
A lack of confidence.
That emotions are in control of them, when they want to be in control of their emotions.
Feeling that their emotional state is forever topsy-turvy, that they can feel ‘all over the shop’.
Feeling constantly defensive.
Needing to hide away from people.
Feeling pessimistic about life, that something negative is just round the corner.
That the behaviour of their children, when it is negative and they are seen as a problem in the community, leaves them feeling ashamed and saddened.
To make a positive impact on their physical health some participants identified that they:
Make a commitment to eat more healthily .
Need to use their will power to make and sustain changes to exercise routines or diet.
Participants recognised the impact of factors out with their direct control that affect their physical health, some of which they have little or no control over as individuals. This included:
Women identified the impact that pregnancy has – both the positive feelings and happiness of being pregnant when they want to be, but also the tiredness or ill health which can also accompany it.
Many people do not have a car, it can be difficult to access better shops and leisure and recreation because of poor public transport.
There isn’t always child care available at leisure facilities.
Participants recognised the importance of diet. People recognised:
Habits from childhood, like eating too many sweet things, were still a problem.
Local shops were varied in their ability to provide affordable fresh produce.
That it is hard to be self motivated to make improvements to their personal and family diet.
Smoking was recognised as a key factor in physical health. While there was a desire to give up this wasn’t something some people felt they could do. As one person told us: “I start of with good intentions but it doesn’t last long. I give in, I don’t know why."
There was recognition of the explicit link between physical health and emotional states.
As one person told us: “I don’t want to go out and exercise when I’m feeling low. It’s easier to sit down and just think about my situation."
As another person said: “It’s about me motivating myself to keep active, to do my own housework."
For some people physical and mental ill health seem inextricably linked, this is particularly true for people experiencing anxiety and depression. As one person reported: “My happiness and my emotions vary from day to day, it depends on my physical health and what’s going on around me."
Many of our participants are managing difficult or complex family environments, sometimes caring for people with a disability or challenging behaviour. In such situations there can be a lack of sleep, negative community perceptions or reactions to their family member. People report feeling ‘judged’ by others.
For some participants the waiting times for services from the NHS were identified as impacting on both physical and emotional wellbeing. Accessing GPs and specialist services were both identified as problematic. However, some people did also recognise that it isn’t helpful that they wait too long to approach their GP for help or advice; by which point their concern has reached a crisis point.
Worries about money and being able to do the things you would like to do as a family or as an individual can be problematic. For some participants it is a real challenge to get enough food on the table for their family.
Coping with being a parent can be a particular stress for people, both managing babies and toddlers, and teenagers who seem to be constantly arguing with you. Caring for a son or daughter with disabilities as you grow older yourself is a great concern for some parents. For some parents there is a sense that their own identity and needs get lost. As one contributor said: “What about me?” On other occasions people recognised that “Just a cuddle from my wee boy makes all the difference."
More generally childcare is a constant concern. Some parents rely on other family members and this can be withdrawn or used against them.
For many people there is a feeling of isolation and loneliness which dominates their emotional state.
Relationships with others are important in a person’s emotional wellbeing.
People talked about having no-one to talk to, and of family members treating them badly. This included being harassed and fears of violence.
Some people have lost their partners, it was described as being “a terrible shock” and find managing their grief and loneliness difficult.
On the other hand loyal friends were identified as important.
People valued any small daily kindness from others.
As stated earlier managing long terms conditions and illnesses, especially when this entails managing pain, takes its toll on the individual’s emotional wellbeing. As one person recorded: “If I didn’t have pain I would be happy even though I have other things wrong with me."
For some people past experiences remain in their day to day consciousness. These can limit what they feel they can achieve in their lives now. As one person stated: “I can become tearful if I let myself think about things, old memories."
What implications are there for regeneration activity, either in terms of policy or practice of service providers? The information from the responses to this question leads to these questions for the agencies managing regeneration activity:
Does regeneration activity:
Support people to stop smoking?
Impact on opportunities for, and services to, those with disability or long term illness – including services which address pain management?
Seek to impact on the day to day, low level, mental ill health which is described here? And if so how? Through building individual capacity to cope and change? Through services?
Support and enhance family life; including what might be seen as skills and strategies for positive parenting, managing challenging behaviour and promoting pro-social behaviour?
Address the social isolation people can experience?
Promote awareness, understanding and positive attitudes towards disability in the community?
Improve public transport – both bus and rail?
Improve access to affordable childcare?
Support healthier eating?
Improve access to GP and specialist services?
Provide for income maximization, debt management and access to low interest credit?