UK at greater risk of mental health effects of COVID-19 crisis, study reveals

Manual, the wellbeing platform for men, has analysed health data* for 156 countries worldwide to find out where has the largest gender gaps for both physical and mental health.

According to WHO, men are living healthier and longer lives than ever before but are still more likely to be burdened by illness and are outlived by women in every country.

However, for mental health, the picture is less clear. Globally, women are more likely to be diagnosed with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, whereas men are at greater risk of alcohol dependence, antisocial personality disorder and committing suicide.

The study, conducted by Manual, reveals a gender mental health gap exists in the UK which sees men at higher risk of experiencing a mental health issue than women.

Out of 156 countries globally, women are placed 125th for their risk of experiencing a mental health or substance disorder, whereas men place 133rd.

Both scores place the UK in the bottom third of global rankings for mental wellbeing and highlights a men’s mental health gap of -8.

The fact that the UK scores well below average for rates of mental illness in both sexes is particularly poignant amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which experts claim could fuel an unprecedented mental health crisis in the coming months.

Isolation from friends and family, economic uncertainty, rising unemployment and threat to life are causing severe psychological stress across the country.

The men’s health gap in the UK does not extend to physical health factors though. Instead, when all factors are considered, such as physical activity, smoking and alcohol intake, cancer risks and workplace accidents, the UK has the 12th largest women’s health gap globally (-38):

 

 

Overall, there’s a difference of 38 places between where UK men (87/156) and women (125/156) rank globally amongst their peers across different health and wellbeing categories.

But why is the UK’s overall women’s health score so low?

When examining how UK women scored in each category, there are several which are significantly lower compared to women in the rest of the world. This, in turn, widens the gap between the UK’s men’s health score.

For example, the female cancer score in the UK is 144th/156 in the world. In comparison, the UK men’s score is 138/156.

UK cancer survival rates have long fallen behind other countries of similar wealth and incomes. This is particularly significant as the take-up of cervical screening is now the lowest it’s ever been, and uptake of mammograms is at a decade low.

The UK female smoking score is also poor compared to women worldwide. UK women are 91st/156. Although figures show UK men smoke more, on average, compared to men in other countries they are only in 23rd place globally.

The data also shows UK women are less physically active than most women around the world, coming in at position 107/156. In fact, a recent study showed almost half of British women are not doing enough exercise for their health.

Globally, the Netherlands has the largest women’s health gap (-62) with higher rates of cancer, mental health disorders and tobacco use than men. Many other countries in Northern Europe follow this trend.

George Pallis, CEO of Manual commented on the findings:

It really is eye-opening to see the differences between genders when it comes to health, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 156 countries studied, 41 percent have healthier men than women. But the fact remains that a greater percentage (58%) still have healthier women.

In any case, everyone no matter their gender, age or background, should own their health and happiness by accessing the support available to them and speaking to a medical professional as soon as symptoms appear.

The full rankings for gender health gaps worldwide can be explored on the study’s dedicated webpage: https://www.manual.co/mens-health-gap/