“Stiff Upper Lip” takes a toll on the Nation’s health


New research reveals that Britain’s “keep calm and carry on” culture, coupled with lengthy wait times for treatment and lack of access to healthcare, could be having a detrimental impact on the nation’s health, with mental wellbeing a key area of concern.

State of the nation

According to the report by Simplyhealth, the majority (59%) of Brits consider themselves to be very or fairly healthy, yet it seems many are in fact neglecting their everyday health needs.

For instance, an estimated 2.7 million UK adults1 suffer with minor health concerns, such as the cold, stomach complaints and headaches, every single day. However, when it comes to staying healthy, just 16% focus on visiting the doctor when they feel unwell, while the average Brit will wait for over two weeks to book an appointment with their doctor about a minor health concern.

This appears to be taking its toll, with one in 5 (21%)4 admitting their illnesses last longer as they can’t get to the doctors due to other commitments.

Other reasons for not seeking medical attention for minor illnesses or injuries include not being able to get an appointment, lack of access to a local GP and not wanting to waste the doctors’ time.

Furthermore, many people are failing to take proactive steps to maintain their everyday health, with less than half (46%) of those surveyed booking regular check-ups with the optician to monitor their eye health and just 51% making an appointment with the dentist for a general check-up.

Regional healthcare disparities

The findings also reveal significant regional disparities regarding the UK’s everyday health. Respondents in Plymouth, Bristol and Brighton consider themselves to be the healthiest5, while those in Cardiff consider themselves to be the unhealthiest6.

In addition, Birmingham has the highest incidence of illness, with 10% of the population suffering from minor health issues every single day. Nottingham is identified as the most challenging city for GP access, followed closely by Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, while Plymouth, Brighton, and Newcastle are thought to be easiest areas in the UK to book a GP appointment.

Barriers to healthcare

When it comes to maintaining their overall health and wellbeing, waiting times and challenges with access to treatment are the primary barriers that Britons face.

For example, well over a third (39%) of Brits say it’s very hard or quite hard to get a GP appointment, while one in three (32%) refrain from seeking medical attention for minor illnesses or injuries as it takes too long to get an appointment.

In addition, 28% state their reluctance to be a burden on the NHS as a key factor preventing them from seeking medical attention for minor illnesses or injuries.

Mental health is a key concern

Despite greater awareness of mental health, it seems there remains a stigma associated with the issue, with the majority of Brits continuing to disregard their wellbeing in this area.

The survey highlights that less than a third (30%) of UK adults feel more comfortable discussing personal mental health issues now than they have done previously.

A further two fifths (40%) state that nothing would make them book an appointment with a counsellor, even though one in three respondents7 (33%) have either been personally diagnosed or a family member has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

The findings also bring to light stark regional differences in attitudes towards mental wellbeing. For instance, those in the South East of England are almost twice as likely to focus on their mental health to stay healthy compared to those in Northern Ireland (31% vs 16%).

Furthermore, residents of Liverpool, Belfast and Edinburgh2 are less likely to focus on their mental wellbeing to stay healthy than other major cities in the UK.

A look to the future

However, when it comes to mental health, the survey suggests positive signs of progress for the future, with Millennials and Generation Z3 taking a more considered approach.

Almost a third (30%) of 16-24-year-olds focus on taking care of their mental health to stay healthy, while Millennials are almost twice as likely than those aged 55+ (31% vs 18%) take care of their mental wellbeing.

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth commentedAlong with highlighting a need for better access to healthcare in the UK, it is clear from our research that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the everyday steps people can take to protect their physical and mental wellbeing.

Dr Dawn Harper, GP and Simplyhealth Ambassador 

GP and Simplyhealth Ambassador, Dr Dawn Harper addedEating more fruit and veg, taking regular exercise and sleeping well will all help our physical and mental wellbeing, but we also need to prioritise routine check-ups to ensure any potential problems are picked up before they become a bigger issue.

There is a lot of truth in the old adage “prevention is better than cure”. A health cash plan can offer easy access to GP appointments and telephone counselling as well as covering the cost of prescription medicines, new glasses and physiotherapy.



Notes & Sources

This survey was carried out by Censuswide on the behalf of Simplyhealth and surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,000 UK adults aged 16+ between 03.01.2020 – 10.01.2020. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on ESOMAR principles.

1 This statistic was calculated using the 16+ adults sample from the ONS 20182019 midyear estimates.

2 This refers to respondents who live in or closet to city mentioned. This is applicable to any further reference of city.

3 The term Generation Z refers to those aged 16-24 years old and Millennials refer to those aged 25-34 years old.

4This statistic refers to respondents who find managing a busy lifestyle impacts their everyday healthcare management

5 This statistic was calculated by combining those who selected ‘Very healthy’ and ‘Fairly healthy’ when asked how healthy or unhealthy do you consider yourself to be.

6 This statistic was calculated by combining those who selected ‘Very unhealthy’ and ‘Fairly unhealthy’ when asked how healthy or unhealthy do you consider yourself to be.

7 Respondents refer to those who feel more comfortable discussing personal mental health issues now than they have done previously


You can read the Simplyhealth press release in full here.