UK's Baby-boomers ‘brushing off’ mental health issues

02 May 2019 . United Kingdom

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

  • Two in three baby-boomers experience mental health symptoms but many feel they’re not serious
  • Lack of awareness leading to treatment delays of more than 50 days
  • Many older people feel that information about mental health isn’t aimed at them
  • Mental health experts at Bupa UK call for people to come forward early to improve outcomes
Three generations

In an intergenerational study by Bupa UK, baby-boomers (aged 55+) were shown to be the most likely age group to delay or avoid seeking medical help for symptoms associated with mental ill-health.

This is despite the fact that two thirds of this age group suffer from symptoms associated with mental ill-health including anxiousness, continuous low mood, feelings of hopelessness and insomnia.

Many keep problems entirely bottled up: one in four (27%) tell no one about these symptoms, with fewer baby-boomers confiding in a partner or friend than younger generations and less than half consulting a doctor*.

Lack of action stems from a lack of awareness that the symptoms could indicate a mental health problem. One in five (22%) think their symptoms ‘don’t indicate anything serious’ and others say mental health simply ‘doesn’t affect me’.

Despite mental health awareness improving in general, only one in three baby boomers feels their knowledge has increased in the last year. This is due to a lack of targeted materials: three in 10 agree that mental health information is more aimed at younger people.

Less than one in three over 55s feel confident in recognising the symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety, compared to nearly half of 18-34 year olds** and even those who do seek help delay by over 50 days on average.

But with early diagnosis proven to significantly improve outcomes by aiding recovery or just improving how a condition is managed, Bupa mental health experts are urging people 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. Bupa’s Mental Health Direct Access offers fast access to a specialist without the need for a GP referral.”

Notes to editor

Research conducted among 2,152 UK adults by Opinium Research, 19-22 March 2019.

* 84% of 18-34 year olds tell at least one person about their symptoms. 43% tell a partner and 50% tell a friend, compared to 33% and 28% respectively for over 55s

** 31% of over 55s said they were fully aware of depression and 26% are fully aware of anxiety, compared to 46% and 46% respectively for 18-34s

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