Simplyhealth’s ‘Everyman’s Health Matters’ campaign shines a light on men’s physical and mental health. In a deeply challenging world, men are taking a big hit as depression, stress and suicide dominate their mental health agenda.
It’s time to tackle tradition and empower men to talk - and make the right choices - so they can lead physically and mentally healthier lives.
Our survey ‘Don’t Keep It To Yourself’, for males aged 18 plus, questioned men’s reluctance when it comes to talking about - and dealing with - the tough issues they face.
The results from over 850 respondents were discussed in a webinar by panel of celebrity and medical experts. The conversation was passionate yet considered, with the survey data providing a solid backup to the areas which need to be tackled
It’s true: men don’t talk
Our survey told us that 53% of men believe their mental health and physical health are equally important, but more than 80% find it easier to talk about their physical health than their mental health.
Stereotypes do play a crucial role in society with almost 60% of respondents thinking that gender expectations stop men from seeking help. And over 15% of men don’t feel comfortable speaking with anyone about their health - not even their family or friends.
This subject sparked a discussion with our panel based on how important it is for parents and role models to establish healthy behaviour patterns to ensure that the next generations learn positive lessons. Supporting each other to change this male narrative and empower men to express their emotions on the outside was a key and impassioned theme. Clear connections were made and stories told by the whole panel about their personal reluctance to talk about or seek help for their health issues.
Physical health vs mental health
When it comes to the weighting that men place on their physical health compared with their mental health, unsurprisingly the respondents said that the likelihood of them seeking advice and discussing physical issues was 7 out of 10 compared with only 4 out of 10 for mental health issues.
Over 60% of respondents had never sought professional help for their mental health. Only 7% of men would prioritise their mental health over their physical health although 53% placed equal weight on their importance.
One of the clinical professionals related his regular experience with men who come to see him with physical symptoms. Whilst he can often sense there is more going on mentally, he said he’s usually met with an inbuilt reluctance to investigate those feelings or fears.
Visiting healthcare professionals
The survey results shine a light on a quarter of the men admitting to having last seen a healthcare professional between one and five years ago (although more positively, 14% have been seen within the last year). A number of respondents said they felt their issues ‘weren’t serious enough’ or they felt a sense of guilt because ‘others needed seeing more’ and this delayed them – or prevented them - from visiting a GP.
The subsequent impact of delayed diagnoses was the subject of lively debate with our panel. Much was spoken about the importance of annual screening and health checks as productive drivers to pick up ‘simple’ problems early. The healthcare professionals on the panel acknowledged how being enabled to provide minimalistic interventions and monitor signposts over time potentially avoids future health crises. This was acknowledged as a critical reason for men to adopt proactive behaviours when it comes acting on their health today – in order to look forward to a healthier future.
Barriers to healthcare
The length of time it can take to get an appointment or diagnosis was the barrier most likely to prevent men from visiting healthcare professionals, agreed on by over a third of the respondents. Almost 20% felt a reluctance because they didn’t want to be a burden to the NHS or others, and the fear of the outcome of a visit to the doctor was cited by 10% of respondents. The point of service for the appointments process also emerged as a barrier, negatively highlighting the booking system and medical reception response.
When our survey asked how men feel when they need to seek help, there was a high level of anxiety and other feelings of frustration or embarrassment reported, with over a quarter of men expressing some form of discomfort.
Various proactive suggestions emerged from the survey around how to encourage men to seek mental and physical health advice through regular mandatory check-ups, male-only clinics, hearing about positive health outcomes and more personal patient interaction.
The practitioner/patient relationship was picked up by the panel and it was acknowledged that the more personal the connection, the more likely men would be to visit and discuss their health. The ongoing pandemic effect of seeing patients from behind a mask or on a computer screen makes establishing a rapport even harder. However the fact that the pandemic has opened up many conversations along the same lines as the fascinating interaction between our panel will have broken down many barriers. The overriding feeling therefore was one of a bright future of men’s health awareness, connection, support and self-care.
Watch a full-length recording of the panel’s discussion. More information about men’s mental and physical health is available on our ‘Take a Breath’ page.