Fewer than one in ten men would tell their employer about mental health struggles

Two men talking in an office
  • Just over half of men have taken time off work due to their mental health in the past three months
  • Fewer than one in six admitted it was for mental health concerns   
  • A third of men said they never discuss mental health at work
  • Around two thirds of men who have discussed their mental health with their employer said that they were helpful

Launched to coincide with Men’s Health Week, Aviva’s recent research1 reveals that men are happy to talk to friends and family if they’re struggling with their mental health.  However, there’s still work to be done, when it comes to discussing mental health in the workplace. 

Reassuringly, just over seven in ten men (71%) said they’d talk to someone if they were struggling with their mental health. The same number of women said that they’d talk to someone - challenging the perception that women are more likely to talk about their mental health than men.

When it comes to where people would turn to for support, the results from men and women were very similar. Around half (45%) of men said that they would talk to their GP if they were struggling with their mental health, compared to just over half of women (51%). A quarter of men (25%) and slightly more (26%) women, would talk to their partner.

Fewer than one in ten (6%) men said that they’d discuss their mental health struggles with their employer. Surprisingly, even fewer women (4%) said they’d talk to their employer.

A third of men (33%) said that they never discuss mental health in the workplace.

A third of men (33%) said that they never discuss mental health in the workplace, which was consistent with the women’s research findings. However, around two thirds (64%) of men and a similar number (61%) of women, who had talked to their employer said that they were helpful.

When it comes to sickness absence, just over half of the men surveyed (51%) said that they have taken time off work because of their mental health in the past three months.  Just under a third of women had taken time off for mental health concerns over the same period. (32%)

Yet, fewer than one in six (15%) men and women told their employer that they were off work for mental health reasons.2   This suggests that there’s still work to be done to give people the confidence to admit that they have mental health concerns.

There are also distinct trends when it comes to engagement with the mental health support available on Aviva’s group protection and health products.3

Man in an office in conversation
Man in an office in conversation

While men are as likely as their female colleagues to engage with the virtual GP service (49%) and Health Check (52%) available on the Aviva DigiCare+ Workplace app, provided by Square Health, when it comes to mental health support, the trend shifts towards females.

Just over a third (38%) of mental health consultations booked via the Aviva DigiCare+ Workplace app in 2023 were for men. Similarly, just under two in five (39%) requests for support from the Employee Assistance Programme available to members on Aviva’s group protection policies were from males. 

Aviva has seen a similar trend when it comes to mental health claims made through the mental health pathway available to members of its group healthcare schemes. Around 70% of claims were made by women in 2023. However, we’re seeing an upward trend in male claims, particularly for children and young adults. Leading reasons for claims include anxiety and depression.

Dr Doug Wright Medical Director at Aviva UK Health said: “It’s important that employers create a psychologically safe environment where people feel confident discussing their mental health. This can be nurtured by leaders sharing their own stories to help normalise the topic, encouraging open and honest conversations and creating ‘safe places’ for people to discuss how they’re feeling.

It’s important that employers create a psychologically safe environment where people feel confident discussing their mental health.

“Line managers also have a key role to play. While they can’t ‘fix’ the mental health problem, they can play a crucial role by listening to the individual, directing them to appropriate support and making workplace adjustments to help with their recovery.

“Finally, communication is key. You can’t force an individual to talk, but you can make it easy for them to find and access support if they need it.”

Aviva is hosting a men’s health webinar for advisers and their group healthcare and group protection clients (employers and group members) on 13 June. You can register here. You can also register via this link to watch the webinar after the event.

Wellbeing services and Rehabilitation and Early Intervention support are non-contractual benefits that Aviva can change or withdraw at any time.

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1. The research was conducted by Censuswide with 1,000 nationally representative UK men, aged 16+ between 02.05.2024 - 09.05.2024 and 1,000 nationally representative UK women, aged 16+ between 04.06.2024 - 07.06.2024. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

2. Respondents who said they have taken at least a day of leave from work because of their mental health and told their employer it was for their mental health or those have taken at least a day of leave from work because of their mental health but did not tell their employer that it was for their mental health.

3. Data covers the period 1 January 2023-31 December 2023.


Amber Scott

Protection and Health, Regulation

Notes to editors:

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