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Number of Brits ‘bottling up’ mental health issues doubles vs 2019

A new study from Bupa UK shows that the vast majority of UK adults (82%) have experienced symptoms that may indicate poor mental health such as continuous low mood, anxiousness, low self-esteem or hopelessness while in lockdown, yet almost half (44%) haven’t told anyone. This shows a sharp rise from 2019 when just one in five (22%) felt they had to bottle their feelings up.

Despite high rates of poor mental health during the pandemic, just one in 20 people (5%) has spoken to a health professional about their symptoms. And concerningly, almost half (45%) say they will not seek medical help in the future. Others plan to wait almost two months (49 days) before coming forward – and one in five say they’re planning to wait until things are “back to normal”.2

Rather than confide in others about their mental health, many people have felt under pressure to ‘grin and bear it’ (43%), while others feel that now isn’t the time to make a fuss about mental health (23%) when the country is in crisis.

There’s particular concern over baby boomers, who plan to delay seeking help the longest – 65 days – despite experiencing symptoms, and women, who will delay 15 days longer than men.3

Mental health experts at Bupa UK are urging people to come forward with their concerns. Early diagnosis is proven to significantly improve outcomes. Bupa’s Mental Health Direct Accessoffers fast access to a specialist without the need for a GP referral

 Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance said: “There’s no getting away from the fact that this has been a really tough period for our mental health. High levels of anxiety and depression have been reported while the country has been in lockdown, and as we remain in a period of uncertainty and change, mental health professionals expect these issues to continue.

“But it’s extremely concerning to see that so many people don’t feel that they can come forward to discuss their symptoms – either with friends or family or with a health professional. We can’t simply wait and hope these issues will pass. Early diagnosis is so important for improving outcomes, and with the number of services and resources available people shouldn’t suffer in silence or think that nothing can be done.

“If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek medical help at the right time. People should not be waiting nearly three months to come forward. It can be hard to distinguish between what’s ‘normal’ for you and what may be a symptom of a more significant mental health issue, and I often recommend that people try to think about whether their symptoms have been affecting them for two weeks or more, and if so, to seek help.”

Experts are also warning that more people may be affected by poor mental health as lockdown measures are lifted. Over half of adults (52%) are worried about what life will be like as we move towards a ‘new normal’ and a similar number feel anxious about the prospect of using public transport or being around lots of people.4  Research also shows that 65% of people are anxious about returning to the office5, and one in four expect their mental wellbeing to worsen as normal life resumes.

Bupa has long recognised that mental health is just as important as physical health and is committed to providing extensive mental health and wellbeing support to its customers, its own people and the wider community. 

Bupa’s free online resources which can be found at  Coronavirus Information Hub have been developed by mental health experts in response to calls from customers about issues that are affecting them during lockdown.

Bupa UK Insurance has also enhanced its Bupa From Home service in response to the greater need, offering customers advice from nurses on mental health concerns and fast access to diagnosis and treatment from GPs and mental health therapists from the safety of home.