If someone asks you how you’re feeling, how often do you give an honest answer?
A study of 2,000 adults commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation has found the average adult will say “I’m fine” 14 times a week, though only 19% really mean it.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they often lie about how they’re feeling to others, while one in 10 went as far as saying they always lie about their emotional state.
The charity has released the figures alongside a poignant video highlighting the need for us to use more open language when discussing our emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The survey also uncovered that 75% of Brits find it difficult to express their emotions.
It found that men are more than twice as likely to be dishonest to others when it comes to their emotions, with 22% admitting they always lie about how they feel, compared to 10% of women.
Women however are more likely to be hurt emotionally, with 41% regretting opening up to someone in the past, compared to 29% of men.
The findings echo recent research by Calm as part of The Huffington Post UK’s Building Modern Men project, which showed that 67% of women who identified as “very depressed” had talked to someone about their feelings, compared to only 55% of males.
Commenting on the latest findings, Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, highlighted that 59% of us expect the answer to be a lie when we ask others: “How are you feeling?”
“While it may appear that most of us are happy openly discussing feelings, these survey results reveal that many of us are really just sticking to a script,” she said.
“This creates an illusion of support. On the surface, we’re routinely checking in with each other but beneath that, many of us feel unable to say how we’re really feeling.”
Of those who said they regularly tell others they’re “fine”, one third (34%) said the term is more convenient than explaining how they really feel.
Meanwhile one quarter (23%) say it because they think the person asking isn’t really interested.
In terms of attitudes towards our own emotions, just one in 10 people enjoy opening up, while the majority remain indifferent to expressing themselves to others.
More than half (52%) actively dislike discussing their emotions, and one in seven say they do not have an outlet in their lives where they can express how they truly feel.
When those surveyed were asked to identify how they were really feeling, anxiety was the most common emotion people reported, with affection, love and depression also common.
“The people around us in our lives are crucial for our mental health, people with strong connections live happier, healthier and longer lives than those without,” Edwards said.
“That’s why we all need a healthy network of friends and family who we are comfortable to confide in when we need to.
“Next time someone asks ‘how are you?’, try going off the standard script and say the truth instead of ‘I’m fine’ and see how a more meaningful conversation unfolds.”
Visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website for more information on the ‘I’m Fine’ campaign, or to sign up for text tips on mental health.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mental Health Foundation