10 things you might not know about mental health

Mental Health issues can affect anyone, regardless of age, race and economic or social class and, due to demographic and lifestyle factors, these are expected to rise. Here are 10 lesser known facts about mental health and well-being you may know nothing about. ALL ARTICLES  |  Research & Foresight
Jan 20, 2020

1/ The majority of mental health issues are NEITHER severe nor permanent.

Whereas mental health tends to be associated with severe mental conditions, the term refers to a spectrum going from good health to severe illness. In fact, the World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities”. The largest proportion of mental health issues are actually neither severe nor enduring but commonly mild to moderate short-lived mental health conditions.

Global prevalence figures show that depression affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and anxiety disorders concern almost 4% of the world’s population. These two conditions constitute the bulk of mental health problems.

2/ In 2050, around 152 million people are expected to suffer from some form of dementia, with 68% in low- and middle-income countries. Annual costs of dementia are expected to reach $2 trillion as early as 2030.

A patient is diagnosed with dementia symptoms (memory loss, disorientation, erratic behaviors, difficulties with everyday tasks and language consistency) every 3 seconds worldwide with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common cause. Worldwide, this translates into almost 10 million new cases a year, amounting to over 50 million affected patients.

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According to the WHO, the annual cost of dementia is expected to more than double to $2 trillion by 2030, up from $818 billion in 2015 a major challenge for national health care systems and society.

3/ “Eco-anxiety” is real and growing and young people are particularly affected. 

In 2019, 68% of the world’s population considered climate change to be a major threat. Many feel helpless and even despair at the vision of the environment’s irremediable destruction and of its consequences in their future and in that of the generations to follow. This has been termed “eco-anxiety”.

Youth seems to be particularly affected with 40% of 16-24-year old in the United Kingdom, for example, saying they were concerned vs. 29% in the overall population.

4/ Gender matters in the prevalence of mental health disorders. 

Figures show that depression, anxiety, eating and bipolar disorders are, on average, more prevalent among women, whereas schizophrenia and drug use disorders typically tend to be more common in men.

For women, some conditions can be triggered by childbirth, early motherhood and by the “double burden” of unpaid domestic labor. In the United Kingdom, for example, one in five women experience mental health issues during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. 

5/ Diet impacts mental health in more ways than one.

It has long been recognized that people’s state of mind has an influence on their eating behavior. Conversely, there is growing evidence that food not only impacts well-being but also the prevalence of some mental illnesses (depression, Alzheimer’s, etc.). For instance, populations on a Mediterranean diet have a 33% lower risk of suffering from depression, and the Washoku Japanese diet may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 36%

The gut’s microbiota also seems to play a role as it impacts our well-being and mind health through the gut-brain-axis. A lack of a specific bacteria can, for example, be correlated with depression symptoms. 

6/ Sleep deprivation wakes up depression, in societies where people sleep less overall.

With modern lifestyle habits, the time people dedicate to sleep is shrinking. A 2019 study reveals the French sleep no more than 6 hours and 42 minutes a day on average. Up to 35.9% of the population’s shuteye is even under 6 hours. Globally, the proportion of sleep-indebted “small sleepers” is on the rise.

Sleep is what determines overall health and well-being. Sleep deprivation is associated with many chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

7/ About half of all cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14, and 75% of them develop before the age of 25. 

According to estimates, 10% of children and teenagers suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental illness, one of the leading causes of disability in young people. About half of all of these mental illness cases begins by the age of 14.

Given its serious consequences in adult age and the positive outcomes of early treatment, addressing mental illness in young people is central to providing better livelihoods.

8/ There is a strong correlation between social status and the development of common mental disorders.

Studies show that the more unequal societies are, the more likely they are to suffer a wide range of health challenges – dependence habits, chronic diseases, self-isolation – and also social issues – reduced life expectancy, higher infant mortality, poor educational achievements, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence.

Accessibility to mental health treatment is widely dependent on a country’s economic development level, so income inequalities also result in a larger number of untreated mental disorders. While 35% to 50% of severe mental-health-disorder sufferers in high-income countries receive no treatment, these numbers skyrocket to a 76% minimum in low-income countries: social cohesion directly affects mental illness.

9/ Burnout could cost an additional $190 billion to healthcare systems every year.

As the health consequences of stress become increasingly recognized, work conditions have become the subject of close scrutiny. Burnout (physical or mental exhaustion), boreout (boredom resulting from mental underload) and brownout (disengagement resulting from loss of meaning) are mental health conditions directly related to the workplace.

The World Health Organization classified burnout as a clinical syndrome brought on by chronic workplace stress in May 2019. This may be the first step before it is fully recognized as an occupational and work-related disease. The stigma surrounding burnout is gradually weakening and its prevalence is now reported in all areas of society.

10/ Your Instagram account may be harmful for your mental health.

While the modern world is supposed to be increasingly open and connected, the feeling of loneliness persists. Social isolation – as a state of near or complete lack of contact between an individual and society – acts as a particularly significant catalyst in increasing the risk of mental disorders.

Contrary to the initial promise made by the major social platforms, social media can in fact exacerbate the feeling of loneliness rather than connect people with new friends: according to one study, for every 10% rise in negative experience on social media, there was a 13% increase in loneliness. Furthermore, due to their intensive use of social media, the under 25-year-old population is more susceptible to social isolation, cyber-bullying and withdrawal.

AXA has multiple roles to play in the area of mental health

Firstly, by helping to shed light on the issues surrounding mental health, raising awareness to better plan prevention and treatment strategies, particularly in areas where cures exist yet are not applied due to poor or tardy diagnosis.

Secondly, as a global employer, by promoting work environments that take into consideration overall physical and mental well-being.  

Lastly, as a forward-looking company committed to supporting research and innovation, through new products and services and the continued funding of scientific projects to continue building our society’s resilience to tomorrow’s challenges.