OECD: Covid-related mental health problems have scarred young people

Mental distress has increased sharply, with levels of anxiety and depression doubling in some countries

A woman looking through window with mask - stock photo. Getty Images
A woman looking through window with mask - stock photo. Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in mental health issues and countries need to ramp up care as they attempt to return to normal, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

Mental health problems have scarred young people, the unemployed and people now facing financial insecurities that, for them, did not exist before the pandemic.

The OECD warned on Tuesday, as it published a report into the social and economic costs of mental ill-health, that mental care was a long neglected and under-funded field that was about to need more money for more patients.

Before the pandemic killed millions and left economies in tatters, an estimated one in two people experienced a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, and one in five were living with mental ill-health at any given time.

Since the Covid-19 crisis, levels of mental distress have increased sharply, especially among young people, with anxiety and depression even doubling in some countries, the OECD said.

Countries must make mental health systems more innovative, using new approaches to support people, such as apps and tele-medicine, the OECD advised.

It warned that countries were falling short in key areas and that patient-centred care was a priority for post-pandemic mental health issues.

Eleven OECD countries have only one or fewer psychologists per 10,000 population.

While the level of spending on mental health care has increased in OECD countries over the past decade, the share of total health spending dedicated to mental health has not increased and has even declined in some countries.

Mental health problems have impacted young people, the unemployed and those facing financial insecurities during the Covid-19 pandemic, the OECD said. PA/Getty Images
Mental health problems have impacted young people, the unemployed and those facing financial insecurities during the Covid-19 pandemic, the OECD said. PA/Getty Images

Mental ill-health drives economic costs equal to more than 4.2 per cent of gross domestic product, part of which are the direct costs of treatment, but more than one-third is related to lower employment rates and reduced productivity.

Before the pandemic, nearly 20 per cent of people with mental health conditions reported that they were not treated with courtesy and respect during a hospital stay.

Meanwhile, 67 per cent of people who wanted mental health care reported difficulties getting help.

But for patients, the effects of getting it wrong are life-changing.

People with serious mental health conditions have a much lower than average life expectancy.

Updated: June 8, 2021 01:01 PM

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