- November 2-6 marks International Stress Awareness Week, which highlights stress management, mental health, and wellbeing.
- New research sheds light on how the pandemic and lockdown measures have affected the mental health of individuals.
- Despite the negative effects the pandemic is having on our mental wellbeing, there’s a silver lining: people are now, more than ever, realizing the importance of mental health.
This week, November 2-6, marks International Stress Awareness Week.
‘A Report on Mental Health and Wellbeing in Europe’, commissioned by AXA, provides insights into how people have coped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the pandemic and lockdown measures have affected the mental health of individuals.
The report found that “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.”
Despite the fact that the pandemic has had adverse effects on the mental wellbeing of people, there’s a positive note:
People are now, more than ever, realizing the importance of mental health.
The report argues that there is a “clear connection between our mental health and our physical wellbeing, and the wider social and economic costs associated with mental disorders. Poor mental health costs the economy billions each year; it undermines business and productivity.”
The Economic Cost of Additional Stress
AXA’s survey found that the pandemic has had a terrible toll on the mental health and sense of wellbeing of people.
The survey found that different factors affect our mental health during the pandemic, with some factors posing more of a risk than others.
Here are the factors that worsened our chances of coping well with the Covid-19 pandemic (in order from most likely to affect our chances of coping well to least likely to affect our chances of coping well):
- Having intimate relationships affected
- Having a poor state of mind prior to Covid-19
- Living in a bigger household
- Being an extrovert
- Having increased job stress
- Having to take more responsibility for others
- Having your financial security destabilized
- Losing your job because of Covid-19
- Having a history of mental ill-health
- Being a woman
According to survey findings, “during the pandemic, the number of people saying they had poor mental health tripled.” Furthermore, those with pre-existing conditions suffered the most, with 42% of respondents citing that they felt they were losing control of their lives because of the crisis.
While the pandemic has come to exacerbate stress and mental health issues, it is not entirely responsible for high levels of poor mental health.
“Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, Europe was struggling with mental health issues.”
In fact, “one in four of those surveyed said they’d sought professional help before the pandemic to improve their mental health.
Still, the increase in “bad general mood or state of mind” is significant and it can be attributed to the fact that people are facing new challenges.
Two of the main reasons why people cited poor mental health were an increase in work stress and a worsening of their financial situations; leadinging to deteriorating levels of mental health.
“Of those still with jobs, 62% reported that their stress levels had increased compared with pre-pandemic levels. Many – 81% – also described themselves as having a poor or low state of mind.”
As for financial issues, there’s a clear correlation between mental health and financial stability, the survey found. “54% of those in a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ state of mind also said their financial situation had worsened during the pandemic.”
Interestingly, extroverts have suffered more during the crisis when compared to introverts, who are typically more likely to report mental health issues. The survey argues that extroverts suffering from mental health issues is a direct response to lockdown measures and enforced isolation.
And there’s an economic price to pay for all of this.
“Mental ill-health accounts for half of all long-term sick leave in Europe. Overall, the cost to the EU economy of mental ill-health is estimated at a staggering €600 billion a year – equivalent to more than 4% of annual GDP.”
The Pandemic’s Silver Lining
The survey concluded that “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.”
While awareness of mental health issues and available support services differ and vary by country, there is a change in attitude taking place. A change that will, most likely, be permanent.