Advisers have been urged to pay close attention to clients’ mental health problems as research showed almost half of British adults ‘self-medicate’ their mental health issues and symptoms.
Findings from a new study by life insurance broker Lifesearch, published today (May 30), showed that more than 24m adults self-medicated their mental health — 45 per cent said they were currently using at least one coping mechanism while 60 per cent said they had done so in the past.
The broker polled 2,005 adults in April and found one in five used alcohol, over-the-counter meds, or illegal drugs to medicate while others were drawn to gambling, sex, food, or spending to alleviate chronic mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia or depression.
Of those surveyed, one in three said they self-medicated to get a sense of control over their mental health while the findings found that 12 per cent of people didn’t feel comfortable talking about mental health and fewer than half (42 per cent) had talked to their partner about it.
The research also revealed that seemingly healthy behaviours were sometimes taken to the extreme in the name of self-medication.
While 38 per cent of respondents used exercise to help maintain their mental wellbeing, one in 10 exercised to excess, and 30 per cent of women used over or under eating to cope with mental health issues.
In fact, half of those who relied on self-medication said the behaviour had become a problem.
Following the research, LifeSearch is urging people to confide in others about these issues rather than trying to cope alone as part of its Let’s Start Talking campaign, which aims to encourage Brits to have those necessary but uncomfortable conversations.
Kathryn Knowles, managing director at Cura Financial Services, said advisers needed to be open and transparent with their clients when discussing mental health.
She said: "We can be empathetic and make sure they feel able to speak to us about these issues, but we also need to be honest and manage their expectations about what’s available in the industry.
"For example, we can’t baby people and make false promises about how certain mental health conditions are going to affect different policies."
Ms Knowles also said advisers should make sure clients were aware of the value-added benefits embedded in policies, such as counselling, they could benefit from and potentially make recommendations based on such services for certain clients.
She went on to say that as mental health was closely linked to financial wellbeing, any financial adviser should be aware and have the knowledge to recommend helplines like the Samaritans or know to call the police if they felt someone was in need.
Emma Walker, chief marketing officer at LifeSearch, said: "Mental ill-health shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your family’s future — and it all starts with one open, honest conversation.
"We know that this is easier said than done, but we hope that we can inspire people to have those conversations."