The difficult life decisions Brits lose 43 nights’ sleep A YEAR over

Jo Hemmings and Katie Piper sitting in a white, open room on Aviva yellow chairs

Research shows we’re a nation of worriers, with poor decision-making costing us sleep and money.

That’s why we’ve partnered with superwoman Katie Piper and behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings to launch the Aviva Decision School, a free online academy to help you tackle tough decisions with confidence.

By Sarah Lewis

Ever spent a sleepless night awake with worry? If you’re anything like the average Brit, chances are you have. In fact, Aviva research  found people lose a staggering 43 nights’ sleep a year this way, making us a nation of worriers .

What’s keeping us up? Decisions.

Not just any decisions. Big, life-changing ones. 

Ending a relationship topped the list of troublesome decisions, with 31% of people finding this particularly difficult. This was closely followed by buying a new home (29%), relocating to a new country (27%) and changing job or career (27%). Others struggled with whether to get married (25%) and having/adopting a child (21%).  

The emotional process of making a big decision is daunting. Almost half of respondents (49%) feel anxious when doing so, more than two-fifths (43%) suffer stress, and almost a third (32%) feel overwhelmed. 

Procrastination doesn’t pay

Unsurprisingly, three-fifths (60%) of us admit we put off making a big decision. 

Almost a third of us put off making a big commitment due to difficulty trusting our instincts (32%); 24% delay owing to anxiety, and 17% feel that they don’t have the right tools or expertise available to them.

But putting off decisions comes at a cost. Brits lose an average of £421 a year by being indecisive , with 35–to-44-year-olds losing the most (£506). In fact, almost a fifth of respondents (19%) believe they’ve lost more than £500 in a year from being hesitant. Procrastinating has also caused more than one in 10 to miss out on a job offer, while 7% missed out on buying a home or have had to buy a more expensive one as a result.

The decision that takes the longest time for Brits is decide on is when to retire – on average taking 10 months and seven days. 

Overcome doubt with Decision School

To stop decision-making wreaking havoc on people’s emotional and financial health, we’ve launched Aviva Decision School – an online teaching academy to help people overcome hesitancy and make life changes more easily and with confidence.

The academy shares valuable insights from a range of expert decision-makers from different fields, including:

  • Katie Piper – author, philanthropist and presenter, Katie has inspired millions of people to overcome challenging situations and expertly balances her career with family life
  • Jo Hemmings – behavioural psychologist and a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), Jo is also a dating coach
  • Leroy Logan MBE – former superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and founding member and former chairman of the Black Police Association. Logan was involved in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the inquiry into the killing of Damilola Taylor
  • Vanessa O’Brien – mountaineer, explorer, author, and former business executive. In 2020, O'Brien became the first woman to reach Earth's highest and lowest points, receiving a Guinness World Record

The top 15 most difficult decisions to make

Getting divorced or ending a long-term relationship 31%
Buying a new home 29%
Relocating to a new country 27%
Changing job or career 27%
Getting married 25%
Having or adopting a child 21%
Moving in with a partner 20%
Relocating to new city 20%
Caring for a family member 19%
Where to invest money 15%
Deciding when to retire 13%
Choosing a pension 10%
School choices 8%
Pursuing further education and choosing a degree (or deciding not to do so) 8%
Getting a pet 7%

The life decisions Brits spend the most time procrastinating over (average, in months)

Deciding when to retire 10 months, 7 days
Getting married 8 months, 29 days
Getting divorced or ending a long-term relationship 8 months, 26 days
Relocating to a new country 7 months, 14 days
Having or adopting a child 7 months, 4 days
Buying a new home (house/flat) 6 months, 29 days
Changing job or career 6 months, 28 days
Moving in with a partner 6 months, 9 days
Relocating to new city 6 months, 2 days
Choosing a pension 5 months, 19 days
Pursuing further education and choosing a degree 5 months, 12 days
Getting a pet 5 months
School choices 4 months, 19 days
Where to invest money 4 months, 13 days
Caring for a family member 4 months, 6 days

Find out more about the Aviva Decision School and free online tools.

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Average of £420.55 lost in a year due to being indecisive (excluding those who selected 'N/A' and 'Not sure') x 54,098,971 (ONS 2019 mid-year UK 16+ population) = £22,751,322,254

Average of 6.15 hours of sleep are lost a week per person (excluding those who selected 'I don't worry about making the right decision') x 52 (weeks in calendar year) = 319.8 hours lost a year / 7.5 (Mean average of NHS recommended hours of sleep per night) = 42.64 nights’ sleep lost