Nigel Owens health: Rugby ref has faced an ‘unrelenting nightmare’ of health issues
Share this

Nigel Owens, 50, has become a full-time dairy farmer since hanging up his referee’s whistle. He’s swapped one high-pressure environment for another, describing his new profession as a “very, very difficult” way of life. In both jobs, Owens has encountered people, particular men, and younger men, who have been struggling with mental health.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few people over the years, you know, men in particular, and younger men as well, who’ve been struggling with various different issues, whether it be mental health issues, dealing with similar issues that I had around acceptance of my sexuality,” he said.

“I think in general, across the board, men find it difficult to open up because of that macho image, I guess,” he told

Owens was the first in rugby to come out as being gay.

He told the BBC in 2017 in his younger years he tried to “suppress” his sexuality and he “became very depressed”.  

READ MORE: Pancreatic cancer symptoms: Can you smell that? The warning sign that shows up on the loo

And in the hope of reaching out to other young people struggling with mental health, he was also one of the first sportsmen to speak openly about what he considers “the biggest regret” of his life, a suicide attempt.

Owens also considers another “first” – speaking about dealing with bulimia.

He said: “Since the age of 18, I have had bulimia nervosa.

“It is a disorder of overeating followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging.


“I suppose I was scared of being found out. Nobody had come out in the macho world of rugby, and that just put me on the dark, dark road.”

Following the overdose, Owens was rushed to hospital where he remained for three days.

When he finally came out of intensive care he was told that had an additional 20 minutes passed before he received medical attention, he would have died.

He said: “This is the moment when my life changed forever, but this was also the moment when my life was saved.”

Urging men to speak up about their mental health, Owens told this year: “Men seem to want to bottle it up and don’t want to show those feelings for many different, various reasons. Some see it as a sign of weakness, they’re the head of the household, so to speak.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few over the years [reluctant to speak out] and sort of suggested to some, you know, where they can get help from or to seek help or to ask for help.

“And I know that certainly has helped some, yeah. There are so many different ways you can get in contact with people now.”

People suffering with their mental health can call Samaritans for free 24/7 on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit for online self-help tools and information.

Share this
You May Also Like

Getting enough sleep is now officially a marker of good heart health

Getting enough sleep is now officially a marker of good health: List…

Texas court blocks enforcement of pre-Roe abortion ban

A Texas court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the state’s long-dormant pre-Roe v.…

Doctors condemn sexism and racism within the British Medical Association

Doctors condemn sexism and racism within the British Medical Association as leaked…

Dementia symptoms: Early signs of the brain condition that are ‘common’ to have

“There are some common early symptoms that may appear some time before…

Monkeypox will become a ‘permanently entrenched’ STI in the US, Cornell expert warns

Monkeypox may become a ‘permanently entrenched’ sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the…

Abortion rights proponents file wave of lawsuits challenging bans

Abortion rights activists have quickly filed a slew of lawsuits in states…

Gut health guru Dr MEGAN ROSSI on strategies to think about when dealing with constipation

It’s a problem that affects millions of us which can be really…

Democratic governors urge Congress to avert ‘disastrous’ ObamaCare premium hike

A group of Democratic governors is calling on Congress to avert what…