The invisible crisis during COVID-19: our mental well-being
The sanitary and economic impact of COVID-19 is broadcasted, discussed and debated widely on a daily basis, but how are we actually coping mentally with the crisis?
In a quest to understand the effects of COVID-19 and to help prevent a European crisis in mental health, AXA Europe, reached out to InSites Consulting Paris to initiate a conversation with people across seven countries on mental health and wellbeing.
After an exploratory phase consulting numerous experts in the field (professors, mental healthcare professionals, therapists,…) in a series of online in-depth sessions and sprints, we set out in June of 2020 to interview 5,800 Europeans in seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Through the digital survey we wanted to find out more about how people cope during the Covid-19 crisis and how the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures had affected their mental health. Even more importantly we probed on the skills and strategies people have adopted to deal with the lockdown. We also measured the accessibility and affordability of professional and therapeutic help to deal with mental illnesses and issues.
“Covid-19 is the worst public health crisis for more than a century; it’s also an economic crisis. In recent months, lockdown measures – intended to stop the spread of the virus – have brought our economies to a near standstill. The effect of these twin crises on our mental health has been devastating. People are deeply worried about the virus; they’re worried about its impact on their finances, on their personal lives, and the consequences for their friends and family. In the past, insurers were there just to pay the medical bills. At AXA, we want to become a health partner – not only paying the bills, but also helping people live healthy lives, preventing illness.”
Antimo Perretta, CEO AXA Europe
The full Report on Mental Health & Wellbeing in Europe is available for download via AXA, offering consumer insights on mental health prior to COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, the increased media consumption during lockdown, but also the after-effects of COVID-19.
Our 3 key take-aways
#1 Mental illnesses are widespread but remain largely stigmatized and are not often discussed publicly in Europe. 34% of those surveyed suffered from mental illness – even before the pandemic. Of those, however, only one in four had access to treatment or professional help. One reason for that is affordability – 30% said they wouldn’t be able to pay for treatment, if required.
#2 The number of Europeans with “(very) bad state of mind’ has tripled during the crisis to 1 in 5. Mental health issues impacted certain groups within society more than others. Among the hardest hit were young adults – those between 18 and 24 years of age – whose regular social contacts were cut off abruptly and whose work stress levels increased significantly. Overall, women fared worse than men, and that’s because generally women often an took on more responsibility during the pandemic (caring for children and elderly or vulnerable family members).
#3 One silver lining is that the pandemic has highlighted to people the importance of mental health: 60% of those surveyed said they’d changed their view of mental well-being as a result of Covid-19; 70% said they’d learned to accept those seeking professional help – a sign that the stigma surrounding mental illness is beginning to recede.
It became clear in our research that the cocktail of anxiety for an unknown virus, limited freedom of movement and an increase in work stress is toxic: our mental well-being is, next to our physical health and our economies, under attack. The need for professional and therapeutic guidance is higher than ever.