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Employees not Comfortable Talking about Mental Health in the Workplace

Hong Kong,10 Oct 2017

New research by Bupa of working people in Hong Kong shows a third (34%) of respondents don't feel they can talk about their mental health with their managers at work.

  • Over a third (40%) of the respondents felt they would be penalised for talking about their mental health, with an even higher percentage (48%) among the younger generation1 
  • More than half of respondents think they will be overlooked for a promotion (67%) or a pay rise (54%) by talking about their mental health challenges;
  • 56% of respondents have seen mental health issues handled inappropriately in the workplace.

Bupa surveyed 1,555 people in Hong Kong, Australia and Spain about their mental health in an online poll in September 2017. Nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents in Hong Kong said they felt their colleagues would be nervous if approached about the subject; the percentage in Hong Kong is significantly higher compared to that in Australia (60%) and Spain (53%).

40% also felt they would be penalised for talking about their mental health, by being overlooked for promotion or pay rises as the most common perceived consequences reported. Over half (60%) of respondents worried about requesting time off for mental health.  

The challenge of supporting mental health in the workplace is also being felt by line managers. Over half of respondents say direct reports have come to them about poor mental health. Of the line managers surveyed, 66% say they are worried about saying the wrong thing when approached about mental health; while 41% say they feel awkward talking about it.

Worryingly, more than half (56%) of respondents said they have seen mental health issues being handled inappropriately in the workplace.

Dr. Sarah Salvilla, Medical Director of Bupa Hong Kong, commented: "There's still a stigma in many countries when it comes to talking about mental health in the workplace, including here in Hong Kong. It's clear that some progress has been made in this space, but more needs to be done so that discussing mental health is no more taboo than talking about physical health.”

“Supporting people in feeling comfortable enough to discuss mental health in the workplace is key to making more progress in reducing the stigma around this issue. For instance, our research shows that more than a third (36%) of respondents in Hong Kong who are managers haven't had any guidance or training on how to support others affected by mental health challenges.”

1Up to 48% of the respondents in Hong Kong aged between 18-24 felt they would be penalised for talking about mental health. 


Notes to editors: 

The research was conducted by Sapio Research during September 2017 in Hong Kong, Australia and Spain. A total of 1,550 respondents participated in the research and the sample breakdown is as follows,

  • Hong Kong: 500 respondents
  • Australia: 555 respondents
  • Spain: 500 respondents

All interviews were completed via an online survey and all respondents were under employment with line management responsibilities from across various industries.


About Bupa

Bupa began in the UK in 1947. We fund and provide healthcare services to fulfil our purpose of helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives. Our diversified services include health insurance, clinics, hospitals, dental centres care homes, and more.

Bupa is UK's largest health insurer.* In Hong Kong, we are known as the health insurance specialist. We have gained the trust of more than 400,000 individuals, and 3,200 companies including major corporations in public utility and telecom industry. We have provided quality health insurance for Hong Kong's civil servants for more than 20 years.

Bupa also provides primary care services through Quality HealthCare Medical Services (QHMS), one of Hong Kong's largest private clinic networks.

For more information, please visit

* Source: Laing Buisson Health Cover UK Market Report 13th Edition, published 16 January 2017, in terms of market share among private medical insurance providers


About Bupa Group

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

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

We have 16.5m health insurance customers, provide healthcare for 10.6m people in our clinics and hospitals, and look after around 25,000 aged care residents.

We employ over 80,000 people, principally in Australia, the UK, Spain, Hong Kong, Chile, Brazil, Poland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, India and the USA.

Health insurance is around 70% of our business. In a number of countries we also run clinics, dental centres, hospitals and care homes and villages.

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