Young men are less likely than their female colleagues to seek support at work for mental health matters, new figures show. Despite issues such as anxiety, stress and depression being more openly discussed in the workplace and an increasing number of wellbeing schemes available, young men, according to employee benefits provider Unum, are still struggling to open up about mental health and emotional matters.

Our partner Unum’s latest group income protection benefit figures reveal that 17% of successful claims paid in the year until July 31 2017 were for mental health conditions. Cancer accounted for 29% of payouts, with 10% involving musculoskeletal conditions and seven percent involving injuries and accidents.

Overall, the percentage of men and women making a claim for a mental health condition was the same, at 17% for both. For employees under the age of 30, however, only seven percent of claims were made by men for mental health, compared to 12% by women. And this gap more than doubled for workers between the ages of 30 and 39, with just 14% of claims coming from men for a mental health condition, compared with 30% from women.

Men over 40, on the other hand, are more likely to make a claim for a mental health illness than women. In the 40-49 age bracket, 28% of claims came from women for this reason, compared to 37% of men. For those between 50-59, the figures were 24% for women and 34% for men, while, among the over 60s, mental health claims fell to seven percent for women and eight percent for men.

Unum HR director Liz Walker believes the reluctance of young men to seek mental health support is due to a number of reasons, including the need for greater training for line managers to spot signs, and men and women showing symptoms in different ways. She told Real Business magazine: “Depression is often more difficult to diagnose in men because they don’t complain about typical symptoms. More often than not, it’s the physical symptoms of depression, like backache or constant headaches, that lead them to visit doctors.”

Unum’s advice for employers includes making sure managers understand the issues through mental health first aid training, promoting self-care - such as not expecting staff to check emails outside of working hours! - and running Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) alongside wellbeing initiatives. It can also be a good idea to hold all-male presentations to chat through the support that’s available in the workplace.

Anyone worried about a colleague can find out how to spot the signs of anxiety and depression in our useful guide. You can also read about mental health cover in private medical insurance, as well as the benefits of income protection for you and your family.