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Secret Life of Brits

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Millions of UK adults keeping ill-health a secret from loved ones

  • New study reveals the nation’s closest kept secrets from mental and physical illness to debt and drink problems
  • Survey uncovers nearly half (44%) of UK adults have skeletons in the closet including romantic feelings for someone else and secret mobile phones, dating profiles and email accounts
  • Life insurer LifeSearch is encouraging people to open up to their loved ones and disclose any health related issues, in what could be an “uncomfortable, yet essential conversation”


They say a problem shared is a problem halved, but a new study released today finds nearly half (44%) of UK adults are keeping secrets from their loved ones.

Research from the UK’s leading life insurer LifeSearch reveals seven million people [1] (13%) are secretly battling a mental health condition, whilst nearly four million [2] (7%) are keeping quiet on a physical health problem.

But it is not just health conditions the nation is being stealthy about, with the survey also showing over one in 10 (13%) are hiding money worries and debt and one in 20 (5%) harbouring a secret drink or drug problem. (See Top Ten secrets below)

On the back of the findings, LifeSearch is warning people that whilst some secrets may be harmless, keeping loved ones in the dark about any health or health-related problems could have huge and long-term repercussions should something happen to them.

When questioned about why they haven’t opened up - fear of embarrassment (35%) and not wanting to be judged (34%) were cited as core concerns.  Nearly one fifth (17%) of adults withholding secrets also worried telling someone could cause the breakdown of a relationship.

And while we all have personal information we’d rather keep private, not opening up about the important things can create problems both now and further down the line. Immediate effects felt by those keeping secrets include anxiety (34%), guilt (29%) and sleep problems (25%). 

Emma Walker from LifeSearch said: “Whilst we may find it hard to open up about certain aspects of our life, not doing so can cause further pain in the long run – not just for those keeping the secret but for their loved ones too.

“Keeping loved ones in the dark could have huge and long-term repercussions should something unexpected happen. Lockdown has had a major impact on the public’s mental health for instance, with people finding themselves experiencing symptoms they’ve never experienced before. Many may have been prescribed new medications for example, and it's important that this information not be kept secret from loved ones or insurers. Likewise, in some situations even financial secrets between a couple have had an impact when claiming on insurance.

“Worryingly, our research showed one in five people plan to take their secrets to the grave - a risk that could cost their loved ones dearly should something happen to them. Some of these conversations might be uncomfortable, but are very necessary and by being more open you can lessen the burden of shouldering these confidences.”

“At LifeSearch we’re committed to protecting the life you love and helping you put contingencies in place, and for this to work, we need for people to be honest about their situations.”

The LifeSearch research went on to reveal how technology is enabling some secretive behaviours. One in ten (10%) UK adults admit they have a secret email account their partner or family are unaware of and one in twelve (8%) have set up a secret dating profile. One in twenty (5%) have a secret mobile phone.

For information on what you should update your life insurer about if your circumstances are to change, visit 

Table 1: Top Ten Secrets We Keep

The secrets we keep


Mental health condition


Debts or money worries


Past relationships or sexual history


Lost love/feelings for someone other than my partner of mine


Physical health condition


Money such as income, inherited wealth, secret bank accounts


Relationships or friendships that people wouldn't agree with


Work mistakes


Drink or drug problem


A sexual health condition





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LifeSearch Limited is an Appointed Representative of LifeSearch Partners Limited, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Calls may be monitored/recorded.