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Two Thirds of Workers are not Prioritising their Mental Health

16 May 2023

UK workers not prioritising mental health

New research from Vitality health insurance has today revealed that seven in ten (70%) openly admit to prioritising their physical health over their mental health. Despite 71% saying the conversation about mental health is more prominent than ever, three quarters of Brits (75%) admit that physical health problems are still taken more seriously than mental health struggles. 

The research went on to reveal that over half (62%) have never taken a day off for their mental health, despite 74% agreeing that challenges with mental health is a legitimate reason to take time out of work. In contrast, the overall majority (73%), have done so for a physical ailment. Fear of being judged (44%) is the main reason for not telling an employer if they were off for mental health reasons, whilst a third (33%) believe their employer wouldn’t understand or that their job would be in jeopardy if they did (17%). 

When it comes to the reasons workers are prioritising physical health over mental health, over half (54%) say because they can feel physical pain, they think it’s more evident than a mental health issue. A further 72% say it’s difficult to measure how bad mental health issues are in comparison to physical ailments and 39% admit they don’t want to bother professionals with mental health struggles as physical health problems are more urgent. 

Despite a quarter (25%) believing physical health problems are more important than mental health problems, many recognise that they are interdependent. In reality, 47% say their mental health improves when they exercise and eat well, while 39% reveal that their diet becomes worse and 69% say their sleep is affected when they are struggling with their mental health. Additionally, almost half (49%) confessed that bad habits (including smoking and drinking) come out when their mental health is suffering. 

When it comes to seeking help, although 49% encourage their friends to talk about their mental health, they still struggle to talk about their own. In fact, 45% would prefer to discuss their challenges with a stranger than their close circle of friends and family. Almost half (49%) say they don’t know how to bring up their mental health challenges in conversation – whether that’s in the workplace, with professionals or with family and friends.  

Silvia Cordoba, Wellbeing Coach at Vitality health insurance comments: “The conversation around mental health in the workplace is a fundamental one. Although it has started to open up, there is so much more to be done. To help drive this conversation even further, we must understand that mental health is as essential to our wellbeing as physical health is, and that they are inevitably connected.  

“Whilst people seem more comfortable discussing their physical pain, we are not there yet when it comes to mental health challenges. However, there is so much power in talking -something we do with friends, family, colleagues or even strangers on a daily basis- which reaps real benefits for our mental health. 

“We could think of it as a workout for the mind - regular mental check ins such as talking to someone around us and/or to mental health professionals, and practising mindfulness can be just as (if not, more) important than going to the gym as it raises understanding, relieves stress, and improves overall health.” 


Notes to editors 
Research was conducted by Opinium among 2,000 UK workers in May 2023 

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