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Self-esteem decrease in people living across the North, Yorkshire and the Humber

Almost a quarter of people in Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East report a decrease in self-esteem compared with pre-pandemic levels, with over a fifth reporting the same in the North West

Relate Cross Pennine encourages people to work on loving themselves this Relationships Week (5-11 July)

Around a quarter of people living in Yorkshire and the Humber (23%) and the North East (26%) say their self-esteem has decreased compared with pre-pandemic levels. In contrast, around a fifth (18% and 22% respectively) say their self-esteem has increased, which is the same across the UK as a whole.

In the North West, the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have contributed to a split in self-esteem levels, with just over a fifth (21%) of respondents saying their self-esteem has decreased compared with pre-pandemic levels but a similar percentage also said it had increased (18%).

This is according to new report ‘The Way We Are Now 2021’, released by leading relationships charity Relate and relationship experts eharmony during Relationships Week (5-11 July). The report combines insights from counsellor focus groups and consumer polling, plus website and service data.

It considers how single people and couples have reacted to lockdown easing and identifies key attitude and behaviour changes, as well as offering tips from counsellors for building healthy relationships with yourself and others.

The research found that adults across the UK recognise the importance of good self-esteem with almost two thirds (64%) of adults agreeing that self-esteem is linked to success in a romantic relationship.

That’s why Relate Cross Pennine is using Relationships Week to encourage people to

work on arguably the most important relationship of all: the one with themselves.

Relate Counsellor Holly Roberts said:

“A positive and balanced view of yourself is critical to overall wellbeing and building strong relationships of all kinds. It’s great that some people feel their self-esteem has increased but for others it has taken a big hit. As we focus on ‘getting back out there’ don’t forget to take some time to also focus on yourself. Learning to love yourself can mean different things to different people – it might be joining a face-to-face exercise class now that’s possible again, saying no to a social engagement, or getting some support such as counselling.”

Across the whole of the UK, the top reasons for self-esteem increasing compared to pre the Covid-19 pandemic were paying more attention to physical health (30%), realising how strong they are for getting through a pandemic (24%) and taking up a new hobby (24%). For those who said their self-esteem decreased during the pandemic this was driven by inability to socialise with friends and family (48%), money worries (42%) and not prioritising physical health (40%). Comparison with others on social media (23%) was another key factor. Low self-esteem is currently more prevalent among women than men, with 32% of women saying their self-esteem decreased, compared to pre Covid-19 pandemic, whereas only 18% of men said the same.

These findings are supported by Relate’s own website data which shows their page on low self- esteem has recently seen a 125% increase in page views, suggesting people are keen to work on their self-esteem now we are emerging from lockdown .

Relate’s own data also shows that the number of 18-34 year olds attending counselling on their own at Relate has increased by 7% since before the pandemic. They want to encourage even more millennials and Gen-Zers to get in touch by accessing their online self-help content and attending services such as individual counselling to work on issues relating to low self-esteem, friendship and finding love.

Self-help singles

The report 6 shows two in five (42%) single people said they either have or are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships with one or more people since restrictions. Three in ten (30%) of single people surveyed said they make more effort to recognise and address unhealthy romantic patterns, and 23% of people use self-help resources including books, online quizzes or advice from wellness influencers more than they did pre the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, 18–34-year-olds surveyed were the most likely age group to say that they use self-help resources more than pre the Covid-19 pndemic (32%).

Over a quarter (28%) of people who said they are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships since restrictions have relaxed said it’s because they now have a better sense of what they want from a relationship, and a similar number (24%) don’t want to waste any more time. However, sex presents an issue for some. One in four (25%) feel ‘out of practice’ in the bedroom, while over one in eight (13%) are not ready to be intimate again.

Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony said:

“Lockdown was hard for a lot of people, but it also gave singles the time to work out who they are and what they’re looking for in a partner. While it’s only natural that some people feel nervous about having sex again, lockdown has also created a boom in more meaningful dating, with people keen to find real substance. At eharmony, we’ve seen this kind of thing happening before – traumatic environmental events invariably lead to spikes in dating and people wanting to connect deeply with each other.”

The state of Britain’s couple relationships

Looking at those in relationships, the pandemic has sped up how quickly couples 7 are reaching common relationship milestones including saying ‘I love you’ for the first time (68%), getting a pet (59%), buying a house together (58%), getting engaged (63%) and even trying for a baby (61%).

And for couples who said the quality of their relationship has gotten better post the Covid-19 pandemic, reasons include more quality time together (46%), the opportunity for more open and honest conversations (37%) and a spike for some in how often they have sex (20%).

Over one in eight (13%) respondents, however, are left feeling that the quality of their relationship has worsened 8 through the pandemic. The report found that one in ten (10%) UK adults agreed that having more time apart due to lockdown lifting will help their relationship.

Holly adds:

“A key issue we see in counselling is partners not prioritising quality

time together. Lockdown meant this was no longer a bone of contention but as restrictions ease and calendars get busier, making time for one another requires a more concerted effort.”

The Way We Are Now’ report has been released to launch Relate’s annual Relationships Week (5-11 July). People can access self-help content on learning to love yourself throughout the Week and beyond, and information on services to help boost self-esteem is available at

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