January 25, 2022
Has mind health become a strategic issue for AXA?
Antimo PERRETTA: Our first study showed that pre-existing mental health challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. According to the OECD, the cost of poorly treated or undiagnosed mental illness represents 4.2% of GDP – €600bn only in the European Union – and 67% of people say they do not have the support they need. Therefore, we expect mind health to have a growing place in the healthcare market. With this study, we want to add mind health into our thinking on health, which is a strategic priority for AXA. In doing so, we can help customers take a holistic approach to their health. Research shows that this is a key determinant of physical well-being and it can contribute to social success.
Gordon WATSON: Mental health is a global and increasingly visible issue. The global cost of mental health conditions is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2030, up from $2.5 trillion in 2010 according to the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health.
As a global company with a thriving business across Asia, we also play a role in supporting the well-being of millions of customers across the region. Therefore, we have extended the survey to include key markets in the region – mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan – and provide a more comprehensive and informed perspective.
How has mind health evolved since the beginning of the crisis?
AP: Respondents are aware of the importance of having good mind health and become more willing to talk about mental illness and its impacts on their physical well-being. There is an increasing awareness around mind health which translates into a greater willingness to discuss these issues, a greater resilience of populations, and further empathy towards affected people.
GW: This is even more pronounced in Asia, where 42% of respondents said the pandemic improved their ability to deal with difficult situations, compared with 33% in European countries; and 33% of respondents said that the stigma around mind health has declined, compared with 31% globally. In mainland China, 50% of respondents believe empathy had increased during the pandemic, the highest among all countries surveyed.
AP: However, we note that this willingness to discuss mental ill-health is often limited to the family circle. For example, in Europe, 63% of respondents trust their family and friends to provide support instead of contacting health professionals. This may be explained by the lack of available healthcare services and a solid healthcare infrastructure, or health restrictions. Even countries with well-funded and efficient services are not always considered to be proficient at tackling mental health. Only 38% of those surveyed believed their local health service was up to the mark. Proper attention to mental health is still low and unmet need for care is still high.
What can AXA do as an insurer and employer?
AP: As a global health insurer, AXA has a role to play. Our "payer to partner" strategy enables us to go beyond the simple reimbursement of healthcare costs to provide customers with simple, tailored, and comprehensive solutions, notably in the field of prevention. We believe this approach will help improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, reduce pressure on healthcare systems, and increase employee protection.
For instance, we launched with Microsoft a global platform (Healthanea) across many of our markets in Europe. It simplifies the healthcare journey by providing access to an ecosystem of integrated health services, including those that promote mental wellbeing. We also have several mind health products and services across Europe, covering the entire healthcare journey – prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
In parallel, if we want to be impactful, we need to monitor our actions and track our progress. This is the objective of the Mind Health Index which helps AXA assess people’s well-being according to how they feel and identify potential problems before they become serious.
GW: The workplace environment is also a vital factor to employee well-being. Even before the pandemic, AXA Asia signed a Shared Value Pledge to promote mental well-being at work. We also introduced a raft of initiatives that included ramping up staff health benefits during the pandemic, ensuring all markets in Asia have Employee Assistance Programmes in place, and developing a guide for employers to support the mind health of their people during, in collaboration with the Columbia University WHO Center for Global Mental Health.
We also continue to maintain a dialogue with our employees through internal communications and awareness sessions such as the Healthy You campaign and foster work-life balance through the Smart Working program, which gives employees more flexibility in organizing their days.
For our customers, we have set up Emma, an all-in-one digital concierge, available in six countries in the region. Over 25 personalized and easy-to-use healthcare services covering the entire care pathway, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, such as medication delivery and mental health features, are offered across Asia, with a tailored mix available in each market. In Hong Kong, the platform is part of the AXA BetterMe program, designed to meet customers' holistic health and wellness needs.
AP: Our 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 help our communities.