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‘Brave face’ Britain – 60% bury serious worries and problems

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If someone tells you they’re fine, chances are they are anything but – a new study into the everyday problems and worries of 2,000 people highlighted a tendency to hide feelings of worry or avoid ‘showing weakness’ because of a fear of being judged.

Results showed the average person’s approach to dealing with serious stress and worry, and found we regularly seek to hide problems – even from those closest to us – to avoid being a burden.

When putting on a brave face, the average Brit is most likely to bury serious concerns around health, financial problems or general mounting stress, and utters the throwaway phrase ‘I’m fine’ eight times a month (when in reality they aren’t).

The figures emerged in a study carried out by mutual healthcare provider benenden health, in conjunction with the charity Beating Bowel Cancer.

It also emerged six in ten admit to regularly ‘putting on a brave face’ in times of serious worry, while a quarter thought it embarrassing to show any signs of weakness with fears of being judged or labelled common.

Paul Keenan, Head of Communications from benenden health said:

”Putting on a ‘brave face’ can often be our default mode when we are faced with issues which worry us out of a fear of appearing weak.

”But when this impacts our health and wellbeing we really need to address our reluctance as a nation to open up about these concerns and seek appropriate help.

”Speaking out an early stage when something is concerning us, particularly if that’s a medical issue, can greatly increase our peace of mind and reduce the risks of the problem worsening. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about issues that worry us and ask for support to help us through the difficult times.”

The study also found that the average person says something six times a day that they don’t really mean, with telling people ‘they’re OK’ when it’s far from the truth the most common white lie told.

And results showed 85% think acting fine when really they’re not is a common British trait.

No surprises then that nearly two thirds have put on a brave face at work, and four in ten confess they have buried big problems in the past out of hope they would fade away.

Worryingly, one third of people feel that they have no one to turn to in their personal life that they could share serious worries with.

The trend extends even to those closest to us – more than half of those who participated in the study admitted to regularly masking pain from others and two thirds have kept a troubling health worry from a partner.

A fifth said they’ve had a serious illness or ailment and told absolutely no one and the same number said they would always choose to keep a serious worry to themselves.

benenden health conducted the research in conjunction with charity Beating Bowel Cancer to highlight the many health worries Brits fear talking about or sharing with people because of stigma and the fear of judgement.

Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said:

”It’s worrying to see that people still aren’t talking about their health concerns and are putting a brave face on things. Unfortunately bowel cancer is still a taboo.

”A deeply embedded fear of cancer and the embarrassment of talking about poo and bottoms sadly mean that too many people leave it too late to talk to their doctor.

”Over 90% of cases can be treated successfully if caught early so it’s essential people don’t keep their health worries to themselves.”

Even with loved ones we feel it necessary to hide our real problems- 63% said in times of serious worry or stress they always opt to pretend that everything is OK in front of family or a partner.

More than two thirds of people agreed that there is a common tendency to make assumptions about people who are troubled by certain illnesses or ailments.

While over three quarters thought many illnesses or medical problems are still considered taboo and come with a great deal of stigma attached.