A survey into the emotions of the nation has revealed that Brits are feeling ‘fine’. Apparently. A study of 2,000 Britons has found that the average adult will say ‘I’m fine’ 14 times a week, though really just 19 per cent mean it. Almost a third of those surveyed said they often lie about how they are feeling to other people, while one in ten went as far to say they always lie about their emotional state.
And this dishonesty goes both ways, with 59 per cent of us expecting the answer to be a lie when we ask others “How are you feeling?”
Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation who commissioned the research said: “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.
“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.”
Men are more than twice as likely to be dishonest to others when it comes to their emotions, with 22 per cent admitting they always lie about how they feel, compared to 10 per cent of women.
Women however are more likely to be hurt emotionally. Forty one per cent have regretted opening up to someone in the past, compared to 29 per cent of men. Conversely, 44 per cent of those surveyed said that they have regretted asking somebody how they were doing after receiving an answer they weren’t prepared for.
As for those ‘fine’ Brits, 34 per cent use “I’m fine” as a response because it is more convenient than explaining how they really feel, while 23 per cent say it because they think the person asking isn’t really interested. Strangely, we are more likely to reveal our true feelings to a stranger than our work colleagues, while our grandparents bring out the honest side in us, with less than one per cent of the sample willing to fib to gran or grandad.
We are also three times more likely to disguise our feelings from Mum than from Dad, and feel more comfortable discussing our emotions on social media and online forums than with our friends directly. When quizzed on the people in their lives they receive emotional support from, a fifth of Brits said they could use a lot more guidance and support, while 28 per cent think they would benefit from more supportive people in their lives.
In a question aimed at uncovering our attitudes towards our own emotions, just one in ten people enjoy opening up, while the majority remain indifferent to expressing themselves to others. Fifty two per cent 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.
The study also explored the emotional profile of the participants. When asked which emotions they expressed most commonly, a third of respondents chose anxiety. Eighteen per cent chose depression, 15 per cent chose boredom and 11 per cent chose loneliness. More encouragingly, 21 per cent said they felt affection most frequently, and 20 per cent chose love.
Jenny Edwards continued: “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. 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.”
The Mental Health Foundation has launched an ‘I’m Fine’ campaign to encourage Brits to open up about mental health and ‘bring back meaning’ to daily life.