UK’s working-class men are hiding their mental health issues

New research reveals over 4 million working-class men are suffering in silence with their mental health in the UK.

Millions of British working-class men hide issues with their mental health, according to new research by Public First and commissioned by Kindred Group.

The report, based on a study of 4,000 UK adults, shows that those in lower socio-economic groups are disproportionately likely to suffer from mental health issues.

While men are less likely to be aware of symptoms of depression or to seek treatment as a result, working-class men sit at the intersection of these two groups. As such, they are both more likely to be at risk of mental health issues and less likely to seek treatment for them.

This is the first time the barriers that exist in tackling mental health problems among working-class men in the UK have been analysed – with a potential new solution using the power of sport also identified.

The findings showed:

  • Two-fifths (40%) of all UK adults have suffered from the symptoms of a mental health issue in the past 12 months – with 27% having been clinically diagnosed.
  • 4.34 million (28%) working-class (C2DE) men have suffered the symptoms of a mental health issue that they thought might require treatment in the last 12 months but decided not to seek medical help.
  • 26% of working-class men who showed signs of depression in the survey also declared in the same survey that they had never suffered from the symptoms of a mental health condition (compared to 19% of women) – highlighting both a lack of willingness to admit having a problem as well as a lack of understanding of the symptoms.
    • The survey indicated that working-class men are less aware of the symptoms of mental health issues (54% aware compared to 66% of the rest of UK adults).
  • Of those who said they had suffered from symptoms, a quarter (25%) of working-class men said they had never been clinically diagnosed, compared to 21% of women in the same situation – highlighting how men are seemingly less likely to seek help even when they are indicating symptoms of depression.

Cost to the economy

Mental ill-health is estimated to cost the UK economy between £70 billion – £100 billion a year so the benefits of solving the challenge are clear.

The survey revealed that 1.7 million (11%) working-class men had to take some time off work, 2.3 million (15%) found it difficult to focus, and 1.2 million (8%) lost or changed their job through experiencing symptoms of mental ill-health. The report also revealed that:

  • A 2% decrease in depression rates could be worth up to £150 million to the economy. 
  • It could equally reduce the number of sick days by 300,000. 
  • The cost-benefit to businesses directly would be £22.5 million. 
  • This moderate improvement could also put around 5000 people back into the workforce, by helping both those who suffer with mental health issues and those who take time off to care for them. 

Neil Banbury, UK General Manager at Kindred Group, said: “The findings in this report are stark, and provide us all with a reminder that the issue of mental health in the UK is an enormous challenge that needs solving.

“Suffering from a mental health issue is not a weakness and that narrative needs to change so that those suffering in silence and not currently getting the help they need have better opportunities to access support. This report shows there is a new way forward – by working together as sponsors, football clubs and wider health services we have a huge opportunity to change things for the better using the power of sport and football.”

Power of sport

The research also highlighted a potential way to reach this group. The polling found that working-class men are considerably more likely to follow sports than other social groups, and football in particular. They are also much more likely to consider sport to be an important part of their lives and the local community.

With the report highlighting how men are reluctant to access mental health services because of perceived stigma and the notion that asking for help is ‘unmanly’, a new way forward exists using the power of sport and football. Three in five (61%) working-class men identify as fans of specific sports teams, compared to 49% of everyone else. And 40% of working-class men are football fans of a specific team and consider their team to be important in their lives, compared to just 29% of everyone else.

Team Talk

By utilising this passion and interest through schemes like Derby County Community Trust’s Team Talk initiative – that allows men to meet on their own terms using the football club’s brand to engage them in a way that traditional mental health services do not – there are real signs of a potential solution.

The initial results of the Team Talk scheme in Derby show that 74% of participants experienced a positive increase in their mental health, 74% increased their physical activity levels, and 85% showed a positive increase in general well-being.

Banbury continued: “There are clear signs that using sport and football can act as an effective way to engage working-class men and address mild mental health issues. Sponsors and clubs are in a unique position to reach working-class men – who are more likely to be football fans – using the power of football.

“Businesses with sustainability at their heart have an important role to play in that, which is why we invested in Derby County’s Team Talk scheme. We support the football industry through our sponsorship, and we are clear in our continued ambition to make sponsorship truly benefit the whole community of a football club – tackling important issues like men’s mental health in an effective way.”
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