Home Medizin Globaler Bericht zeichnet ein „besorgniserregendes Bild“ der psychischen Gesundheit

Globaler Bericht zeichnet ein „besorgniserregendes Bild“ der psychischen Gesundheit

von NFI Redaktion

A recent global report has found that mental well-being is persistently low worldwide and shows no signs of improvement since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Global Mind Project, published online on March 4th by Sapien Labs, surveyed over 500,000 internet-enabled respondents from 71 countries. The report revealed that the most significant decline in mental health was among young adults, with the poorest mental health reported in wealthier countries, while several less-developed African and Latin American nations fared better.

„Our report paints a concerning picture of our outlook post-pandemic,“ said Tara Thiagarajan, PhD, founder and Chief Scientist of Sapien Labs, to Medscape Medical News.

Unexpected results

The Global Mind Project aims to provide an evolving global map of mental well-being and insights into its drivers to enable more effective management of population mental well-being through evidence-based social policies and interventions, the authors wrote. The report was based on responses to the Mental Health Quotient (MHQ), an anonymous online survey capturing 47 aspects of mental performance and functionality on a Life Impact Scale. The MHQ aligns with the World Health Organization’s definition of mental well-being, referring to a person’s ability to cope with the normal stresses of life and make a productive contribution to society.

The initial report, published in 2021, included eight countries and approximately 49,000 adults. Subsequent reports have expanded to include more countries, languages, and participants. In 2023, the average MHQ value across all 71 countries was 65 on the 300-point MHQ scale, with 27% of respondents classified as „distressed or struggling“ and only 38% as „thriving or flourishing.“

Among the eight English-speaking countries surveyed since 2019, the MHQ declined by 8% between 2019 and 2020, coinciding with the onset and global spread of the pandemic. In 2021, these countries saw a further 3% decline. Alarmingly, the average MHQ and the percentage of respondents reporting being „stressed or struggling“ showed little change. Similarly, the 32 countries surveyed since 2021 and the 64 countries surveyed since 2022 remained relatively unchanged.

The encouraging news is that „the decline in mental well-being observed during the pandemic has been halted, but unfortunately, there has been no increase, not even the beginning of an increase to pre-pandemic levels,“ Thiagarajan said. The research findings were unexpected. „We expected to see a ‚U-shaped curve,‘ where mental well-being plummeted and slowly rose again, but we did not observe that.“

Which countries performed the best and worst?

The Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania had the highest MHQ scores of ≥88, while Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Russian-speaking Uzbekistan ranked the lowest with scores between 48 and 53. This corresponds to a 14.3% difference on the MHQ scale between the countries with the highest and lowest ranks. With an average score of 72, the United States fell between the highest and lowest-scoring countries.

The lowest percentage of those reporting being „stressed and struggling“ was in Sri Lanka (14%) and in Italy, Georgia, and Nigeria (17% each), while the highest were in the United Kingdom and South Africa (35% each), Brazil and Australia (34% and 33%, respectively). A quarter of people in the United States reported feeling „desperate and struggling.“

„One of the most surprising findings was that the countries that performed the best were not the most economically successful. We have been working to understand why countries like Tanzania and the Dominican Republic outperformed in terms of mental health compared to countries in the ‚core Anglo-Sphere,‘ such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia, which are wealthier,“ Thiagarajan said.

One possible reason could be age-related. In the eight English-speaking countries, mental well-being among younger age groups (<34 years) declined by 42-50 MHQ points compared to before the pandemic, while there was almost no decline among those aged ≥65 years. "They seemed to weather it well, perhaps because many had experienced major crises like World War II and had a different attitude towards crises," Thiagarajan said. Another reason older people fared better could be related to internet use, particularly the role of smartphones. "In 2023, we released a brief report showing that a person's mental well-being as a young adult was worse, particularly for women, the younger they were when they received their first smartphone," Thiagarajan explained. The social self (a measure of how we see ourselves and interact with others) showed a dramatic improvement, and suicidal thoughts decreased significantly with increasing age at which we first owned a smartphone. "Countries with the best mental well-being, such as those south of the Sahara, got internet later than other countries, and the average age of receiving a smartphone was higher," Thiagarajan said. In contrast, in the United Kingdom, the age for receiving a smartphone "is getting lower." This may not only explain the differences in mental well-being between countries but also the differences among age groups, with the youngest groups showing the worst mental well-being. Processed foods, weaker family units Additional factors include the consumption of highly processed foods (UPF), which is much more common in wealthier than in less advantaged countries - a phenomenon described in a 2023 report with nearly 300,000 adult participants in 26 countries. "The more UPF consumed, the worse the results in all areas of mental health," Thiagarajan said. "It was a widespread effect across all age groups, genders, and symptoms of mental well-being - especially depression, but also emotional and cognitive control and resilience." Countries in the top quartiles of mental health reported significantly lower UPF consumption, and those with the highest UPF consumption had the worst mental well-being. In wealthier countries, "the majority of calories consumed today come from UPF," she said. A third factor highlighted in Sapien Lab's 2022 annual report showed that countries with stronger family ties - typically economically disadvantaged countries - had better mental well-being than Western countries where "family ties are more impaired," she said. "We did not include this narrative in this year's report, but we believe it plays an important role." A related possible cause of the persistent decline in mental well-being could be the continuation of remote work, leading to fewer personal social interactions, Thiagarajan added. "Personal interactions build social connections and social skills." The 'long tail' Commenting for Medscape Medical News, Ken Duckworth, MD, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Chief Medical Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), said the survey results are "convincing, creative, and important, suggesting that a return to pre-pandemic mental health is more like stretching a sock repeatedly than a rubber band snapping back." In other words, the effects of the pandemic "have a long tail. It's been years, and according to this report, people, especially younger individuals, have still not recovered." Duckworth, author of "You Are Not Alone: The NAMI Guide to Mental Health Resilience," added a caveat. When he conducted interviews for the book, people from the United States were more willing to discuss their mental vulnerabilities than people from Latin American or Asian cultures. "Therefore, we cannot assume that all respondents to this global survey have the same cultural approach when it comes to reporting on mental health issues, and that the report does not take these cultural differences into account." Thiagarajan is the founder and Chief Scientist of Sapien Labs. Duckworth disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW, is a freelance writer with a counseling practice in Teaneck, NJ. She regularly contributes to numerous medical publications, including Medscape and WebMD, and is the author of several consumer health books as well as "Behind the Burqa: Our Lives in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom" (the memoirs of two brave Afghan sisters who told her their story).

Related Posts

Adblock Detected

Please support us by disabling your AdBlocker extension from your browsers for our website.