United Kingdom,

A case of desk diagnosis: UK employees confiding in colleagues about health concerns


Half of employees in the UK (49%) say they speak to colleagues about health concerns before sharing it with a partner or loved one, according to new research.

  • UK employees are confiding in colleagues over loved ones when it comes to their health
  • Media, marketing, IT and HR workers most likely to talk openly with colleagues
  • Topics such as testicular concerns and breast cancer symptoms remain off limits

Stress, sleep, anxiety and weight problems are among the main concerns being discussed by employees at work, before confiding in those closest to home.

The new report by Bupa Health Clinics found that 46% of employees prefer to talk about health with a colleague over a loved one. Many do so with good intentions with more than a third (39%) finding it easier to talk to a colleague as they are less likely to worry.

Those working in media, marketing, IT, and HR were among those most likely to talk openly about their health in general at work. Stress tops the list of health issues discussed in the workplace, with those working in education and finance most likely to open up to colleagues about this subject rather than address them at home.

Dr Petra Simic, Medical Director, Bupa Health Clinics, said: “It’s good news that people are opening up about their health and wellbeing with colleagues and we’re not shying away from increasingly common concerns such as stress and anxiety. With us spending so much time at work, the reseach shows the positive impact employers can have on the health of their workplace. From creating a culture where people feel comfortable talking about their health through to offering them a health assessment, this will go a long way to creating a healthy and productive working environment.”

With health becoming an increasingly common topic of discussion in the workplace, 57% of employees said they would visit a GP at work if they had the option. Over a third also said they would book a health assessment if their employer provided access to medical benefits.

However, while three quarters of adults are willing to open up to colleagues about most health concerns, some topics remain off limits. Sexual health, testicular and prostate concerns and symptoms of breast cancer are the health areas least likely to be discussed at work.

And of those who prefer not to talk about health at work, over a fifth (21%) said open-plan offices that limited privacy are the reason why, while one in 10 found hot desking to be a barrier to discussing health at work.

The sectors most likely to talk openly about health at work are:

  1. Sales, media & marketing
  2. IT & telecoms
  3. HR
  4. Healthcare
  5. Education
  6. Retail
  7. Engineering
  8. Travel
  9. Finance
  10. Arts & culture

The 10 most common concerns being discussed with colleagues over loved ones are:

  1. Stress
  2. Sleep
  3. Anxiety
  4. Weight
  5. A niggling symptom
  6. Female health e.g. smear, periods
  7. Smoking
  8. Sexual health
  9. Digestion
  10. Alcohol consumption

About Bupa Health Clinics: 

  • With more than 50 Bupa health centres across the UK, we offer a range of trusted health services close to where people live and work.
  • Bupa clinics are open to everyone, whether you have Bupa insurance or not.
  • Our health and dental clinics offer a range of everyday health services from GP and physiotherapy appointments and health assessments to general, cosmetic and specialist dentistry.
  • Bupa’s range of health assessments give people a snapshot of their health and help them make informed decisions.
  • Our health assessments are designed to make sure people engage with their health before the assessment, and have continued support to meet their goals afterwards.
  • Your Health Assessor will also help you set relevant goals, give you access to the Bupa Boost app to keep you on track and your advisor will call you in the months following to coach and help you. You'll also have 24/7 access to a GP for a whole year for yourself and family who live with you.
  • Bupa clinics are on the high street across the country and offer: health assessments, health services like GP appointments, dental appointments including orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry, dermatology, physiotherapy, osteopathy and podiatry.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We serve 15.5m health insurance customers, provide healthcare to over 14.5m people in our clinics and hospitals and look after over 22,000 aged care residents.

We directly employ over 78,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

Health insurance accounts for the majority our business. In some markets we also operate clinics, dental centres, hospitals, and care homes and villages.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.