Antimo PerettaCEO, AXA Europe and Latin America
January 19, 2022
COVID-19 has been part of our daily vocabulary for two years and continues to impact everything we do. The emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant toward the end of 2021 has forced some governments to impose new social restrictions, especially in Europe. While most are trying to avoid the full lockdowns seen during earlier waves of the pandemic, the massive spike in daily infections in December made some form of action inevitable. Once again, our lives at home, school, the workplace and most leisure activities are being overshadowed by this ongoing threat. The pressure of this on mental wellbeing has been enormous. During the pandemic, people have often been isolated, parents have had to juggle home-schooling and work; many have lost their jobs and income. At the same time, the activities they would ordinarily participate in to let off steam have no longer been available.
The silver lining in this particularly gray cloud is that people have become more willing to discuss these issues. In many countries, the stigma surrounding mental illness has been reduced, while empathy and compassion for others has grown. This study is part of AXA’s contribution to those conversations. It’s the largest we have ever conducted, canvassing opinions from 11,000 people across 11 European and Asian countries and territories.
The study reflects our commitment to address this important issue, too often neglected by governments and brushed under the carpet by fear and taboo. As insurers, we believe strongly that our duty is not confined to just stepping in when things go wrong, and providing the funds and assistance people need to pick up the pieces. When it comes to mind health, AXA is taking a holistic approach, focused on being a positive force for human progress, empowering people to identify and deal with problems long before they take a toll on their mental wellbeing.
This isn’t only an issue for individuals. The cost to society of undiagnosed and poorly managed mental illnesses is colossal. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) puts the economic impact at up to 4.2% of GDP, with two-thirds of that figure due to low employment and lost productivity. In European Union countries alone, the OECD estimates the cost at over EUR 600 billion .
Our study will be repeated annually to build a moving picture of our global mental wellbeing. It will assist individuals, companies, healthcare professionals and governments to monitor and act to improve mind health. It’s backed by the full weight of AXA’s global presence and more than two centuries of expertise in the protection market. We have an array of digital assistance offering advice and information, giving our clients constant real-time access to healthcare professionals.
The growing willingness of a majority of people to discuss mental health issues, particularly with children, suggests that mind health will have a growing place over the long term in the healthcare market.
People and businesses will invest more in it. We will see a shift toward prevention with people taking positive steps to be healthier and happier.
They will continue to access experts when they are unwell but, over time, we should see the conversation extend to investment in better mind health.
Our Mind Health Study has unlocked some valuable insights into the state of mental wellbeing. I am confident that future research, our own as well as others, will continue to empower us to flourish as individuals and communities.