Survey of people with lived experience of mental health problems reveals men less likely to seek medical support

6 November 2016

When asked, 28% of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced compared to 19% of women.

The new survey, by YouGov, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, finds that men who have had a mental health problem are not only less likely than women to have sought medical support for their problem, they are also less likely to tell friends and family when a problem develops. The survey, the largest of its kind – polling over 2,500 people with lived experience of mental health problems, comes at a time when there is an increased focus on men’s mental health with the #RUOKM8 and #BoysDoCry campaigns. The survey also found that:

  • A third of women (33%) who disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or loved one did so within a month, compared to only a quarter of men (25%).
  • Over a third of men (35%) waited more than 2 years or have never disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or family member, compared to a quarter of women (25%).

Mark Rowland, Director of Communications and Fundraising at the Mental Health Foundation said:

“Mental health is so central to our experience of being alive that if we’re ever to rise to challenge of preventing mental health problems, it will be because men feel more able to share when they are vulnerable. This is not about being more of a man but being more in-touch with our humanity. It takes real courage to be open and honest about mental health, but when suicide is the leading cause of death for young men, we all have a responsibility to push for cultural change.”

27-year-old Dave Chawner, a comedian who lived with anorexia and depression for 10 years before seeking support said:

“I think it’s important to talk about gender when we talk about mental health, because the ways we’re expected to deal with things is different. It is more accepted for men to deal with stress, emotions and situations with anger and aggression. Anything else is interpreted as vulnerability and shut down.

“It’s so important that a reluctance to seek help isn’t mistaken for a lack of severity, especially when it comes to men. Men are more likely to say something like ‘I’m feeling a bit shit’ when really they mean, this is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life and I can’t imagine feeling worse.”

More information on supporting someone with a mental health problem.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 6247 adults of which 2,511 have experienced a mental health problem. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 19th October 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).