Why Aussie men struggle to talk about mental health

Mental health & wellbeing  |  October 1, 2020

eharmony joined forces with former AFL star Wayne Schwass and his charity, PukaUp, which is dedicated to men’s mental health and suicide prevention, to research the barriers surrounding men’s mental health. When it comes to talking about matters of the mind and heart, Australian men remain resolutely tight-lipped. This lack of communication often intensifies emotional struggles, and is likely to be a contributing factor to the one in eight men battling depression and mental health issues.

Shining a light on men’s mental health

PukaUp founder, Wayne Schwass has shared his own experiences with depression which culminated in him “lying, hiding and pretending” he was happy for 12 long years. Wayne says: “While disappointed, I’m not at all surprised by eharmony’s findings which illustrate that over half of men still hide difficult feelings from their partners, and many feel they have to find their own ways to deal with things, rather than talk things through with their loved ones or mates.

“When I had despairing feelings, I certainly felt as a man I had to contain them to some extent. But the problem is if you don’t talk to people when you’re down, things build up even more creating huge emotional isolation and disconnection. Over time, this sequence of events can actually be quite dangerous. That’s why I’ve taken my own experience to look at how it can help others.

PukaUp founder and former AFL player Wayne Schwass

When high achievers in the sporting world like Wayne openly share their own battles, it can help other men challenge the fear and shame that keeps them tied to ‘strong and silent’ stereotypes. Generally, men are still conditioned to keep mental health problems to themselves, because to be masculine in Australia today still broadly means exhibiting personality traits such as confidence, strength and reliability.

But in persisting with these clichés we do men no favours. Talking to a partner – or if you’re single, to a good friend or family member -about your mental health can feel like a huge leap of faith, but it gets much easier with practice. What’s more, we know the dating world can be brutal at times, and while single women often talk to their friends about their dating experiences, men are less keen.

Struggling to share

More than half (55%) of Aussie men hide mental health issues from their partners, while a similar number (54%) feel pressured to be their family’s financial provider, the research finds. Men often use coping strategies to deal with issues in their lives which bypass meaningful communication. But does this stem from the stigma that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings? When asked if men believe Australian society allows men to speak openly about their feelings and personal struggles, well over half (62%) believe they are encouraged to do so, but still struggle with actually doing it.

% of Australian men who …

Hide mental health issues from their partners

Feel pressured to be their family’s financial provider

Struggle with speaking openly about their feelings

Feel things would have to be very bad before they would open up to others

Feel they are fairly open and forward when it comes to matters of the heart

n = 2,004; Percentages rounded; supported

Coping mechanisms men use

Some men do still find it harder to open up to a loved one, with a 21% of partners taking more than a year to do so. This is particularly the case amongst those older than 35, who are four times more likely to hold off on disclosing a mental health issues – possibly a hangover from an earlier, less tolerant society. Millennials are leading the way in removing the taboos around mental health. When dealing with problems, Australian men prioritise taking time out on their own (56%) and taking up regular exercise (45%), above talking it through with their friends, family, or partner (37%).

Ways Australian men deal with mental health issues

Talking it through with friends, family, or a patner


Taking time out for myself

n = 2,004; Percentages rounded; supported

The benefits of compatibility

The good news is that while we know that over half of men in relationships feel they need to hide depressive feelings from their partners, just under half (39%) say they feel  more comfortable and confident when they’re in in a solid relationship. Sharon also says couples who share high compatibility are more likely to find it easier to discuss difficult topics. At eharmony we match people based on their shared core values and personality traits, meaning they are more likely to be in sync emotionally and share good communication skills. This all helps keep relationships happy and healthy.


of Aussie men feel more comfortable and confident when in a relationship

Study information
  • Study typeSurvey
  • Populationy2,004
  • Sample Size2001
  • Reference PeriodAugust 2020
  • Region/City/CountryAustralia
  • LanguageEnglish