Older employees ‘brushing off’ mental health issues

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UK employees told to 'man up' from their bosses in regards to mental health problems

A lack of awareness of mental health conditions among baby-boomers is leading a significant proportion of older employees to neglect their wellbeing.

In an intergenerational study by Bupa UK, baby-boomers (aged 55+) were shown to be the most likely of all workers to delay or avoid seeking medical help for symptoms associated with mental ill-health. This is despite the fact that more than two thirds of employees in this age group suffer from symptoms associated with mental ill-health including anxiousness, continuous low mood, feelings of hopelessness and insomnia.

Mental health is now a boardroom priority for two thirds of businesses, showing a commitment to supporting employees through mental ill health. But many baby-boomers keep problems entirely bottled up at work. One in five (21 per cent) feel that it’s not appropriate to discuss mental health problems there, and only one in 10 confide in their colleagues or manager about their symptoms – making them among the least likely to do so. They’re also least likely of everyone to be aware of their employer’s mental health policy.

This is due to a lack of awareness that the symptoms could indicate a serious mental health problem. One in four older workers (24 per cent) say their symptoms ‘don’t indicate anything serious’ and others say that mental health simply ‘doesn’t affect me’.

This shows that more needs to be done to engage this group on mental health. Less than one in three over 55s feel confident in recognising the symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety compared to their younger colleagues and younger workers overwhelmingly agree that information about mental health is more targeted at them.

The impact of this is that older employees are among the last to seek help for their symptoms, delaying for 54 days on average.

But with early diagnosis proven to significantly improve outcomes by aiding recovery or just improving how a condition is managed, health experts are urging employees to come forward and seek help earlier.

Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK, says.

It’s clear to see that awareness of mental health issues is improving, but more needs to be done to address information gaps to ensure that everyone feels confident in recognising and seeking help for a mental health concern. Mental health issues can affect us at any age and it’s important to seek support without delay, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve recovery rates. If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health, it’s important to seek medical help.

Interested in wellbeing and mental health awareness? We recommend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019 and Mental Health Awareness training day.

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Er, no – whilst the snowflakes are queueing up for therapy or meds or something, baby boomers just have things in perspective and tend to ‘get on with it’.
    When your childhood was in the company of those who survived the blitz, rationing, the imminent threat of invasion, and worse – you realise that there are far worse things in life to endure than most of the (relatively trivial) stuff we face today.
    So, no, they’re not ignoring it – they just have it in perspective.

  2. Many in the 45 plus age group cannot risk admitting any weakness, let alone mental ill health, for fear of the Ageism Broom sweeping them out of a job.

  3. I understand your viewpoint on the importance of perspective, but I would still disagree with calling people snowflakes for dealing with mental health issues. Finding help and solutions for solving a problem, which in this case is the lack of mental well-being, is not a sign of weakness. It is understanding that if there is an issue, which can potentially lead to worse performance in the workplace (among many other things), then the issue needs to be dealt with, so that it won’t cause problems in the long run. The attitude of ‘get on with it’ might work for some and it can be a solution in cases. But being open-minded and non-judgmental, and recognizing that it doesn’t work in every situation is even more important.

  4. Hmm, both of the previous commenters have a point. The fear of losing your job at a mature age will indeed deter many from speaking up at work.

    And there’s definitely a case to be made that baby boomers are more likely to ‘get on with it’, although I wouldn’t suggest that younger people are snowflakes. But there is a line between needing professional help for a mental health issue and being unhappy at work/with your current lot in life. Continuous low mood is something people can do something about without needing medical support or by seeking help from their employers – who, in many cases, will not help.

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