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Third of UK adults have ignored health issues due to pandemic

30th August 2021 by Charlotte Walker

New research from not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health has found that as many as 31% of the nation’s workforce have not sought medical support for a health issue - or have delayed doing so as a result of the pandemic - with individuals having concerns around catching the virus in medical settings and the NHS’s capacity to see them. 

Of those that pushed back on seeking medical attention, a quarter (27%) revealed they were worried about catching COVID-19 and more than a third said they thought that the NHS was overstretched and would not have time to see them (36%), whilst a quarter (23%) believed their health issue was not that important and one in ten were too scared to find out a diagnosis.

While many individuals ignored health concerns, a third (33%) of respondents explained that they have had medical appointments cancelled or delayed since the outset of the pandemic, with 38% of individuals having to wait between six and nine months for it to be rearranged and more than a quarter (27%) revealing that it has still not been rescheduled.

With undiagnosed and untreated conditions on the rise, lengthy waiting lists and a general decline in the nation’s wellbeing, Benenden Health is warning that the UK is now facing a significant health hangover from the pandemic.  

More than a third of working adults (35%) revealed that their physical health has got worse since the start of the pandemic while only 18% said they believed it had got better. Similarly, almost half (42%) of respondents explained that their mental health has declined in this time, with only 12% reporting an improvement. 

Additionally, a fifth of individuals (19%) reported new physical health issues over the course of the pandemic, whilst a whopping 53% have developed a mental health issue – with most developing anxiety (29%), a lack of energy (23%) or depression (20%).

The impact of these untreated conditions on businesses has also been highlighted with nearly half (43%) of working adults having to take time off work due to health issues in the past year, with knock-on effects on productivity and business performance. 

When asked about any support received at work, only 13% of individuals said that their employer has a health and wellbeing plan in place and that they had used it in the last year, highlighting an additional gap between the supply and demand of medical support, with many either unsure about their private healthcare provision or declining to use it.

With these findings highlighting an alarming requirement for medical support across the nation, Benenden Health is encouraging individuals not to ignore any concerns they have about their health and to access necessary support, including from healthcare professionals, colleagues, friends, family and employers, as the nation continues on its road to recovery from the pandemic. 

Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, said: “Clearly the impact that COVID-19 has had on our wellbeing and our health services cannot be understated, but sadly the treatment of the virus itself has understandably set back the diagnosis and treatment of other health issues.

“With individuals feeling reticent to access medical support for wider health concerns, combined with the emergence of new issues including a significant increase in mental health issues, we are now facing an additional healthcare crisis in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

“If you have a medical issue that is causing concern, it is vitally important to discuss this and receive accurate information as this will allow you to make an informed decision on how to proceed. Never delay in asking those questions as conditions are far easier to investigate, diagnose and treat in their early stages.

“If you are concerned about visiting a medical setting, there are additional ways to access support – including virtually – so do investigate these options as well as understanding what may be available privately, as these services can help ease the load on the NHS and ensure that individuals receive the medical attention that they need.”

Benenden Health is a not-for-profit organisation offering high quality, private healthcare at the same affordable cost for everyone. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment.

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