Tis the season to be jolly, but UK employees are taking this adage a step too far, putting off addressing potentially serious health issues throughout Christmas.


According to findings from Bupa UK data, employees prioritise almost everything but their health for most of December. Christmas shopping (20%), visiting family and friends (17%), finishing the food shop (11%) and meeting work deadlines (5%) all rank higher up the ‘to-do list’ than seeking medical advice for health concerns (2%).


Overall, seven in 10 employees (69%) admit to putting their health on the backburner throughout the Christmas period until early in the New Year. And many working adults would even ignore ‘major’ health concerns that could be symptomatic of cancer such as unexplained tiredness (32%) or a persistent cough (27%).


And it’s not just physical concerns that people delay seeking advice for over the festive period. The research shows that employees also ignore symptoms of mental health conditions, with three in 10 saying they ignore symptoms of work-related stress such as feeling like they can’t cope, and the same number ignoring symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or anxiety.


Data from Bupa’s telephone self-referral service – Direct Access – shows a significant fall in consultant bookings for cancer (-64%), mental health (-21%) and musculoskeletal (-39%)  in December compared to other months of the year.


In the run up to the festive period, people can feel time-poor due to the number of seasonal social commitments and activities. Many employees (35%) feel it’s too hard to schedule an appointment in the lead up to Christmas. And a similar number (32%) choose to ‘soldier on’; hoping that the festive break itself will solve their health problem.


Dr Luke James, Medical Director at Bupa UK Insurance, comments: “The Christmas period is often a busy time for people, both at home and at work so things inevitably drop off the to-do list. When it comes to our health, an early diagnosis is key to aiding recovery and can significantly improve outcomes.  So regardless of the time of year, I would always recommend that someone seeks medical advice if they experience any unexplained and persistent symptoms.


“We launched our Direct Access service to make it more convenient for customers experiencing symptoms of cancer, mental health or musculoskeletal issues to seek help without needing a GP referral.”