Research conducted by Westfield Health has found that despite the number of men (15%) reporting a mental health condition or disability being similar to women (17%), they are much less likely to seek support from their employer. 

An analysis of UK workers’ reasons for taking time off in the past six months revealed that 11 percent of women had taken time off for stress or burnout, compared with 6 percent of men.

Westfield Health is calling for businesses to break down the barriers for men and open up conversations on mental health for all genders.

Dave Capper, CEO at Westfield Health, comments:

“The stigma surrounding men’s mental health, unfortunately, still exists. This can have dire consequences; around 20% of men die before they retire, and suicide is the most common cause of death for men under 50.

“With women twice as likely to say that they are taking time off due to stress or burnout than men, it’s more important than ever that we’re encouraging men to open up about their mental health. The age-old stereotype of calling men ‘weak’ if they ask for help can’t continue.

“We’ve come a long way, but there’s clearly still work to be done and until everyone feels comfortable to ask for mental health support, we need to keep addressing the stigma.”

When asked about the type of health and wellbeing support they would like, men were less likely to request benefits such as mental health days or wellbeing training.

Male workers more likely to use benefits

Female workers were more likely to ask for benefits which supported their mental health and work-life balance.

Two-fifths of women (40%) would prefer mental health days or ‘duvet days’, yet only a quarter (25%) of men would like their company to offer such a benefit.

This was a trend throughout the research, with women wanting better healthcare benefits (38% of women and 26% of men), access to wellbeing training (30% of women to 26% of men) and unlimited annual leave (35% of women versus 27% of men).

Dave expands: “There’s clearly a stark difference between genders on who will ask for mental health support. Businesses need to consider ways in which they can create an open and supportive environment where men feel comfortable taking time out to put their wellbeing first.

“If employees are not using the support already in place, it could point to a culture problem at your workplace. Oftentimes workers do not take advantage of certain benefits if senior leadership teams don’t also embrace them; starting from the top and ensuring there is a whole-of-workforce approach toward wellbeing will allow male employees to feel more comfortable to take time off to look after their mental health.

“Culture can be a hard thing for an organisation to change, but providing training for managers and leaders and working to actively address issues such as stigma around men’s health issues can help improve it.”

In contrast, men were more comfortable taking time off to address physical injury and illnesses and were much more likely to take days off for physical illness (40%) as opposed to mental health challenges (15%).  

Mental health and the impact at work 

As well as being less likely to ask for mental health support, men are also more likely to feel dissatisfied with their job. Males aged 45-54 are the demographic most likely to feel dissatisfied at work (11%), compared with 7 percent of workers on average across all demographics across the UK. Across all age groups, 8 percent of men reported they were dissatisfied with their work, compared with 6 percent of women.

Dave added: “The links between satisfaction at work, wellbeing and productivity are clear. We know that if people are disengaged and unhappy in their job or feeling the impact on their wellbeing it ends up affecting a company’s bottom line.

“If men are worried about their health, but there’s a culture of not being able to ask for help at work, this ultimately will hurt businesses. There are things we can do as employers to help empower men to look after their wellbeing by offering benefits such as gym discounts, a cycle-to-work scheme, webinars or coaching sessions. If you find that men aren’t taking advantage of these benefits, however, then building an open workplace culture will help normalise mental health discussions and allow managers to offer assistance.”

Physical health versus mental health

Research has also found that in addition to the stigma around asking for help with mental health, men are also less likely to get help for physical health, with research showing that men aged 20 – 40 visit their GP half as often as women the same age.

Dave adds: “Men fall foul of stating that their physical health is better than it actually is, highlighting the need for discussions around maintaining overall good health.

“For businesses to break down the barriers for men to address their health and wellbeing, they need to raise awareness. Small changes like ensuring people have a confidential avenue to seek support, such as mental health first aiders or signposting to external help for those who might not feel comfortable speaking to their fellow colleagues, will help encourage team members to seek support.

“Review who’s engaging with your wellbeing initiatives; if it’s mainly women, consider ways you can make everyone feel more comfortable. Could you make wellbeing webinars or talks available to watch privately in an employee’s own time if they don’t feel comfortable attending publicly?

“HR teams can also encourage people to take charge of their health by sending regular reminders about any employee assistance schemes and policies around time off for medical appointments.

“Small steps like these may well help break down the walls often built around men’s health that is preventing them from seeking the help they need.”

Westfield Health has released a report which outlines the research in more detail and ways in which businesses can support and empower their workers to put their health and wellbeing first.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.