"AXA wants to put mental health at the top of the health agenda"

AXA publishes today a report on mental health in Europe. This survey analyses a still-underestimated and poorly known risk, and shows the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the mental health of Europeans. Antimo Perretta, CEO of Europe and member of the AXA Management Committee, outlines the main findings of the report. ALL ARTICLES  |  Research & Foresight
Oct 8, 2020

Why is AXA interested in mental health?
Health is a major issue, especially with an ageing population. It also presents a challenge for the insurance industry as healthcare costs are exploding. For several years now, health has been one of AXA's strategic priorities. We have a role to play and the legitimacy to act as a leading international group on this subject and a key player in the healthcare system. Healthcare is also at the heart of our Payer to Partner strategy, which aims to provide a wider range of services to our clients.

 Leaders in healthcare must consider the subject holistically and analyse its various components. Mental health is an underestimated and little-known risk: symptoms are less visible than physical illness, and it remains taboo in some countries. In Europe, almost 50% of major depressions go untreated and mental disorders affect 25% of the population every year.

With this in mind, we conducted this Mental Health and Wellbeing study in June, in collaboration with InSites Consulting, involving 5,800 people in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Switzerland. We want to better understand the subject, alert people to the risks and contribute to improving the situation.

 

What are the main learnings of the report?
There is an urgent need for action. The Covid-19 crisis and lockdown have worsened the situation in Europe: 63% of respondents said they had experienced an increase in work-related stress, and 32% stated that intimate relationships have been affected. Consequently, the rate of people reporting poor mental health increased from 8% to 23%, as the pandemic intensified existing symptoms. Women and young people are most affected by mental problems related to the coronavirus. 42% of the women surveyed report a worsening of their mental state compared to 33% of men, and 28% of 18-24-year-olds feel that their mental health has deteriorated. Action is needed to help the vulnerable and our care systems – mental disorders and anxiety cost €170 billion a year in Europe and are responsible for half of recurrent sick leave. 30% of those surveyed also admit they cannot afford to pay for psychological support services.

The report also shows that mental health is more than just a health issue. It is an invisible handicap. By way of example, people affected may find it difficult to complete simple administrative formalities. For us, as an insurer, this is important to note. We must reflect on the way we interact with some of our clients and employees. We need to restore the human connection. This shows the relevance of the AXA model, which is based on a balance between digital tools and human interaction.

 

What are the next steps after the publication of this report?
Firstly, we want to help push mental health to the top of the health agenda. Covid-19 has reinforced the expectations of Europeans in this respect: 1/3 of respondents say they want to place more importance on their mental health in the future. As we can see, the challenge is huge but necessary. AXA will play its part in this effort.

Secondly, we will act on the results of the study, which shows the extent to which prevention is essential but still untapped in terms of mental health. While 70% of respondents say they are open to the idea of being helped by a professional, 30% say they do not have the means to do so. We are currently entering information into an online health platform to deepen our understanding of the subject and, ultimately, to offer additional services to our clients. The idea is to identify the early warning signs of stress or depression and to help our customers at a very early stage, if they wish, of course, by putting them in contact with a doctor. This type of service demonstrates of our commitment to becoming a partner to our customers by anticipating risks through innovative solutions.