Inside UK’s most taboo health topics as expert reveals why mental health is now spoken about openly

BRITS think the ‘new health taboos’ in society include low testosterone, constipation – and PMS.

But many are now happier to talk about issues like prostate cancer, eating disorders and mental health than they were five years ago.

SWNSBrits are now happier to talk about issues like prostate cancer, eating disorders and mental health than they were five years ago, research has found[/caption]

An increased awareness, understanding and focus in the media were cited as common reasons for health topics to become destigmatised.

While others believe celebrities talking about health issues helps make them more normalised in the public eye.

A spokesperson for research agency OnePoll, which ran the study of 2,500 adults, said: “We know that open and honest conversations about health are vital to ensuring that individuals have the knowledge and confidence to advocate for themselves.

“Our research shows that the public in the UK considers a wide variety of health concerns taboo and that there is considerable work to be done to fully destigmatise the full range of health concerns cited.”

The poll went on find other health issues adults believe are now more commonly spoken about include erectile dysfunction (24 per cent) and fertility issues (20 per cent).

Fewer than six in 10 (59 per cent) would feel comfortable talking about a personal health issue, even with a trained medical professional.

But 43 per cent would be happy to open up to close friends, and just over half (52 per cent) to their partner.

Other topics Brits believe are now ‘taboo’ in modern society including conversations around libido and sexual performance (35 per cent) and urinary incontinence (20 per cent).

But of those who believe open conversations around health matters are changing for the better, 53 per cent believe society as a whole is more open now.

And 48 per cent consider the access to online information vital to getting people talking about issues affecting them.

Just under eight in 10 (78 per cent) believe it’s very important to break down the silence around health taboos.

And in the last two years, 37 per cent have witnessed first-hand someone having an open and honest conversation around these previously little-discussed topics.

OnePoll’s spokesperson added: “There is clearly a societal desire to see the silence around health taboos broken down and the research shows that people are feeling more empowered to discuss certain health topics. 

“The research also identified that discussions surrounding mental health have been the most successful to date in becoming a health topic that is now far more understood, discussed and supported across the UK.”


1.    Mental Health/neurological
2.    Prostate cancer
3.    Obesity/overweight
4.    Eating disorders
5.    Erectile disfunction
6.    Testicular cancer
7.    Fertility
8.    Sexual health (e.g., STI)
9.    Endometriosis
10.   Urinary incontinence
11.   Hair loss
12.   Sexual performance (e.g., low libido)
13.   Body dysmorphia
14.   Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
15.   Menstrual cramps (Dysmenorrhea)
16.   Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
17.   Hormonal imbalance
18.   Constipation
19.   Vaginal infections, e.g., bacterial vaginosis
20.   Low sperm count

Gareth Lucy, communications director UK & ROI for health and hygiene company Essity, identified additional steps that now need to be taken to further destigmatise harmful health taboos.

He said: “As a collective society we’ve got better at talking about the importance of discussing our health.

“Concerns that might previously have been hidden away for fear of the stigma attached to them, are now being discussed more openly in general.

“But saying it’s important to talk and individuals actually talking about their health are two different things.

“What we need to do now is get better at facilitating these conversations and creating safe environments for individuals to open up.

“Secure online communities, less censorship on social media and easier access to healthcare professionals would all help create opportunities for individuals to talk and seek advice.”

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