Four in five Brits suffer a mental health ‘symptom’ 300 days a year

Alexandra Thompson
Side view young woman looking away at window sitting on couch at home. Frustrated confused female feels unhappy problem in personal life quarrel break up with boyfriend or unexpected pregnancy concept
Most Brits have just 65 "symptom-free" days a year. [Photo: Getty]

Four in five Brits suffer at least one “mental health symptom” on 300 days a year, research suggests.

Bupa UK asked 2,001 people how often they experience stress, anxiety, fatigue, sadness, loneliness, mood swings or self hatred.

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Most (80%) claimed to endure at least one of the above across the vast majority of the year, with just 65 “symptom-free” days.

While we all feel down in the dumps from time-to-time, nearly half (45%) were unsure where “normal” sadness ends and mental health issues begin.

“Poor mental health affects one in four people each year, and it’s only by being honest about how we feel – with ourselves and those around us - that we can tackle the stigmas that still remain,” Dr Luke James, medical director at Bupa Global & UK Insurance, said.

“It can be hard to distinguish between what’s ‘normal’ for you and what may be a symptom of a more significant mental health issue.

“I often recommend people try to think about whether their symptoms have been affecting them for two weeks or more, and if so, to seek help.”

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Nearly three quarters (71%) of those asked agreed everyone has their own definition of “normal” when it comes to their mood.

Warning signs of depression include persistent feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, as well as crying and a lost interest in things you once enjoyed, according to the NHS.

Physical symptoms can be exhaustion, insomnia, no appetite, low sex drive, and aches and pains.

If you suspect you may be suffering, the NHS recommends acting sooner rather than later.

Antidepressants and talking therapies have been shown to help, however, lifestyle tweaks can also be beneficial.

Nearly half (43%) of those surveyed claimed a good night’s sleep helps them feel “normal”, while 37% credit music and 36% rely on their family to boost their mood.

Worryingly, 14% turn to alcohol and 11% use cigarettes to feel better.

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Despite advice to act quickly, the stigma around mental health leaves many suffering in silence.

Of those surveyed, 37% wish they could be more open about what they are going through, while 14% worry their symptoms are not severe enough to be considered a mental illness.

“It’s true everyone is different – in fact there are seven billion types of normal on this planet – and the factors that influence our mental health will be different from person-to-person,” Dr James said.

“But what’s really key is to know what normal feels like for you and when to seek help.”

Others (13%) prefer for the negative emotions to pass on their own, while 12% would be too embarrassed to seek help and 8% are unsure what assistance is available.

Your GP should be the first port of call if you feel persistently low, anxious or stressed.

Find out more on the UK charity Mind’s website.