The New Year is notorious for encouraging big parties, excessive drinking, and trying to cram as much fun and hedonism as possible into one night. Yet as the party ends and the 1st of January looms, things begin to get very different. ‘New Year, new me!’ resolutions are everywhere, with people vowing to get physically and mentally healthier as they wave goodbye to the previous year.
However, this kind of change represents something much bigger in those suffering with addiction. In the Mental Health Bulletin 2021-22 Annual report by the NHS, it was revealed that 3,256,695 people in the UK were in contact with secondary mental health services. A worrying 992,647 of those individuals were under 18, highlighting that a growing number of young people are struggling with their mental health.
Even more concerning is that the Young People’s Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2020- 2021: Report stated that, between April 2020-March 2021, 11,013 individuals were in touch with secondary drug and alcohol abuse helplines.
Poor mental well-being and addiction rates vary depending on location, poverty rates, local resources available, and even things like weather and light pollution – along with many other aspects.
In order to determine where in the UK residents have the highest and lowest levels of wellness, we took a set of 10 data points, including official addiction, employment, and crime rates, and applied them to different locations across the United Kingdom.
We also analysed the number of wellness-based amenities in each location, as well as the spots with the most dangerous drinking cultures. After analysing these factors, we were able to determine which locations are thriving when it comes to its resident’s wellness and mental health.
First of all, we crunched the numbers to determine the locations with the most positive attitudes towards well-being as a whole. This data was based on the presence of such businesses as yoga retreats, mental health resources, spa retreats, nature reserves, and so on – allowing us to reveal the best place for people looking to improve their mental health.
In first place was London, with an overall score of 84.9/100. London had a very impressive 224 wellness retreats recorded, suggesting that prioritising wellness is very popular within the bustling capital city. London boasts a staggering 309 yoga studios and 48 spa retreats.
In second place with a score of 71.4/100 was Norwich, the city with the third-highest number of mental health providers of those analysed. This is arguably the most important aspect to improve mental well-being rates in an area, as these organisations have healthcare practitioners who can offer professional, medical advice.
Newcastle was next with 70.2/100. Our data revealed that Newcastle had a very impressive 38 nature reserves, allowing its residents to unwind and reconnect with the outdoors. Many studies have drawn the link between improved mental health and spending time outdoors, with some practitioners even suggesting ‘ecotherapy’ as a form of treatment.
This area also had a respectable number of wellness retreats, with 47 available for those looking to improve their well-being. Those in Newcastle looking to improve their mental health can also head to one of the 99 yoga retreats available, as a recent article highlighted that yoga helps to relieve tension and reconnect with your body.
Dr Catherine Carney, Psychiatrist at Delamere has explained why this topic is important and what impact poor wellness can have on addiction rates:
“Positive well-being is hugely important, but very often overlooked. This can be due to many factors, such as being overworked, trying to maintain a social life, and toxic hustle culture – to name just a few.
“Declining well-being throughout the UK is also likely to have an impact on addiction rates, as drugs and alcohol are commonly used for escapism purposes, as well as to help people de-stress and relax.
“A lot of people in the UK (2 million) suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which causes depressive episodes as the seasons change. A recent article revealed that sun exposure through the retina can help to trigger the release of serotonin (the happy hormone), which usually leads to more people feeling positive during the warmer months.
*According to Microbizmag, London was the location more likely to suffer from SAD than anywhere else in the UK, with 11.65% of residents having previously been diagnosed with the condition.
“As well as this, persistent rain has often been associated with sadness and an overall gloomy outlook on life, which can make focusing on well-being extremely difficult if you live in a particularly wet area. People living in these locations could be more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to lift the symptoms of SAD.
“A previous Delamere Addiction Report highlighted that 20% of Brits consumed at least two alcoholic drinks a day, despite the fact that the NHS states the limit should be ‘six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine’.
“As we move out of the festive period and into the ‘New Year, New Me’ mindset, it is important to note that for many people suffering from addiction, it is not that simple. The big switch from drinking excessively over Christmas, to many people doing Dry January, begs the question: why don’t we focus on obtaining positive mental health all year round, rather than at the beginning of a new one?
“This is why harnessing wellness techniques and prioritising mental well-being is crucial, as so many people may feel they are too far into their addiction to find other coping mechanisms – especially people prone to SAD.”
Graphic 2 – Revealed: Top 10 UK cities with the Best Mental Health
On a brighter note, we also analysed the cities with flourishing mental health records. First up was Swindon, with a score of 77.3/100. The city received 8.7/10 when it came to overall life satisfaction, as well as a nearly full score when it came to light pollution, with 9.1/10.
These scores were collated by looking into happiness levels across the UK, as well as suicide, crime, employment, and anxiety rates – along with many more. The 10 data points we broke down allowed us to determine the overall ratings.
In second place was Southend-on-Sea, with a score of 75.6/100. Another very impressive rating, which was achieved due to scoring full points when it came to light pollution levels and a life satisfaction score of 7.8/10. Extremely low addiction rates were also recorded, allowing this location to score 9.1/10 in this section.
In third place was Luton, which received a score of 74.0/100. Despite scoring only 3/10 when it came to crime rates, Luton achieved the best possible score when it came to low suicide rates, as well as obtaining a score of 9.6/10 for overall life satisfaction.
Graphic 4 – Where in the UK has the worst anxiety rates?
But where in the UK has the highest and lowest levels of anxiety?
We’ve studied ONS data to reveal where in the UK has the highest and lowest levels of anxiety, and the results made for interesting reading.
According to the data, which gave each location an average score out of 10 based on the number of people that said they experience anxiety in the year 2021/22, Luton came out on top with the lowest number of people suffering with the condition.
The city scored 2.75/10 which was surprising, considering the location is just outside London, which scored a higher 3.48/10 for anxiety levels. London was also among the locations with the worst overall mental health levels, which could suggest that living outside the capital lowers feelings of anxiety.
Next up was Plymouth with a score of 2.88/10, while the city of Coventry came in third place with a score of 3.11/10. This could be due to the high rates of suicide and drug use that Coventry experiences.
Below Kate Bithell, a mental health nurse at Delamere, has shared her thoughts on how mental health and addiction can influence each other:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that addiction can have a profound effect on mental health, and vice versa. For example, studies have shown that smoking copious amounts of cannabis can cause people to become depressed and anxious, highlighting the fact that it has a direct impact on mental well-being.
“Many drugs, especially cocaine, can make people aggressive and violent, which often leads to users becoming isolated from their family and friends. This, in turn, would also lead to a decline in mental well-being, as the individual now has nobody to turn to.
“Alcohol is a depressant, so while lots of people indulge in it to achieve a fleeting high, long-term alcoholism actually impacts the dopamine system in the brain, making low moods and depression very likely.
“A recent Delamere blog post revealed that, during and post-pandemic, a record number of people were seeking help when it came to addiction, while 8.5 million people were drinking to a harmful degree. Being locked indoors was frustrating for everybody, but unbearable for people suffering from addiction or trying to recover, as they had to go without their usual resources and support systems.
“For example, people suffering from alcoholism could no longer attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) groups without breaching covid guidelines. People with drug addictions may not have been able to cope with the lack of routine that usually distracted them – the list of reasons is endless. However, it is clear to us that the covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on mental health and also addiction rates, as it was such a life-altering period of time.”
Most people will be aware of the dangerous physical impact that addiction can have, but there is significantly less awareness when it comes to the effect it can have on well-being. As alcohol is a depressant, it can have serious consequences on one’s mental health, especially if it’s being used alongside antidepressants.
While alcohol can temporarily promote the release of the chemical Gamma-aminobutyric acid, which temporarily allows somebody to feel happy and euphoric, the high can be extremely short-lived – particularly if your tolerance to the substance builds up over time.
This means that your brain starts to want to chase that feeling as soon as it subsides, resulting in the need to consume even greater levels of alcohol, and the start of a vicious cycle. This, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on relationships, jobs, the ability to keep up with bills, and general day-to-day life and well-being.
Martin Preston highlighted, “Substances like drugs and alcohol can massively inhibit your decision-making ability. As substance addiction cases rose over the pandemic, with many turning to drink and drugs to lessen their anxiety or soothe their boredom, the end of lockdown seemed to have the opposite effect.
“This could be due to the fact that, as somebody’s addiction becomes worse, the things they will do in order to get their fix will become more extreme. For example, many people suffering from addiction become alienated from their friends and family for stealing from them, or for displaying behaviour associated with excessive substance abuse. This could include violence, delirium, or forgetting responsibilities, as well as lying and being sneaky.”
Prioritising well-being is crucial when it comes to addiction recovery, which could be encouraging more people to invest in wellness getaways. In fact, a 2021 article pointed out that many people were ‘ditching beach holidays’ in their favour.
These retreats specialise in helping to alleviate stress and allow people to get away from their day-to-day worries, which may normally be soothed by substances like drugs and alcohol. This, in turn, allows ex-addicts to find healthier pastimes and relaxation techniques.
Fresh air and exercise have been proven to contribute to improvements in mental health. In 2023 it would therefore be beneficial to try to get out of the house for a while each day – even just for ten minutes at a time.
If your mobility or time to do this is restricted, even opening your window would allow you to experience a gentle breeze – which is especially important if you are working from home.
Working full-time can make it difficult to keep up with hobbies and interests, so it could be useful to set an hour aside every evening to dedicate to a new or old craft.
If you used to love reading but find you no longer have the time, you could challenge yourself to read a certain amount of books in the new year, as setting a goal would give you something to work towards. You could also throw yourself into a new craft, such as knitting or painting, in order to relax in the evenings.
Even a few minutes of guided meditation in the evenings would allow you to totally switch off from the day, ready for a restful night of sleep. If you are unsure of how to begin your meditation journey, you could listen to a dedicated podcast or YouTube video.
This method would be especially useful for people who struggle to drift off to sleep, as it would minimise the temptation to watch TV or scroll through your phone for hours.
Never underestimate the power of a phone call or catch-up with a loved one.
With many responsibilities, it can be easy to forget to phone or even text friends and family. However, setting a reminder in your calendar for a weekly catch-up would allow you to share and discuss any issues you may have encountered throughout the day, giving you fewer excuses to bottle things up.
Giving to others is a very important aspect of undertaking a wellness journey. As well as being a new activity you could sink your teeth into, it would offer a sense of achievement and fulfilment.
For example, you could organise a charity bake sale or even fundraise with a friend, as many charities offer ideas for sponsored activities that can be completed from the comfort of your home.
Taking a seed list of the most populated locations in the UK*, we have uncovered which had the most positive attitude towards well-being, based on the following criteria:
*Only 29 locations were ranked and scored, as those which the data could not be found for were removed.
Taking a seed list of the most populated locations in the UK, we have uncovered which had the most positive approach to mental health, based on the following criteria:
*Only 24 locations were ranked and scored, as those which the data could not be found for were removed.
Where in the UK has the worst anxiety rates?Anxiety Levels for each location are ONS survey results. Each location was given an average score out of 10 based on the number of people that said they experience anxiety in the year 2021/22.
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