The corona pandemic and its fight cause gigantic costs, not just economically. According to World Bank calculations, an additional 150 million people in the developing and emerging countries will be in the absolute this year and next poverty fall, so their diet and survival are at risk. Nobody in this country is threatened by this, but here too the consequences for many people are immense.
Because in addition to the financial losses, many also suffer psychologically from the situation. How strong is shown by two studies that have just been published. Accordingly, the burdens have increased considerably, and a not inconsiderable part of the population has been plunged into acute psychological problems.
This takes place against the background that mental illnesses have already increased sharply in recent years. The costs for the health system and the national economy are now threatening to rise further.
“In view of past experience of emergencies, it is to be expected that the need for psychological and psychosocial support will increase significantly in the months and years to come,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a message on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, which takes place this Saturday. As plausible as it is, it is also unclear how great the problems that societies are facing.
The Axa Group, which is also one of the largest private health insurers in Germany, has therefore commissioned a study to investigate the mental well-being and psyche of people in crisis. And the results are worrying.
“Mental problems are the third, invisible wave of the corona pandemic,” says Alexander Vollert, head of the Axa Group in Germany, summarizing the results of the Europe-wide investigation. “A third of Germans experienced a deterioration in their mental health during the Corona crisis.”
Different population groups are affected to different degrees. Particularly worrying: People who already suffer from mental health problems are struggling much more severely with the crisis. Of them, 45 percent said they had felt in control of their own lives in the past few months to have lost. In contrast, it is only 15 percent of those surveyed without previous mental illnesses.
Extroverts are also more at risk than introverts – they lack going out and meeting other people more. Age also plays a role: the older the person, the more psychologically they suffer. And for everyone who also had to go through a relationship crisis during this time, that increased.
However, Germany is still doing relatively well in a European comparison. In this country, only 25 percent said that during the crisis they at least partially felt that they had lost control of their lives.
In Switzerland it is a third, in Great Britain half, and in Italy 57 percent say yes. There, however, the lockdown measures were also the toughest.
Another indication of the extent of the psychological devastation wrought by the measures to contain the pandemic is a study by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. She asked a total of 87,477 people in all 27 EU countries, first in April and then again in July, how they assess their psychological situation. In April, there were strict curfews everywhere, and in July there was an extensive easing. The differences are considerable.
On average, the mental well-being among EU citizens increased during this time by four points on a scale from 0 to 100, from 49 to 53. This includes statements on five questions that relate to the mental state.
Germany is pretty much in line with the average of all 27 EU countries. As expected, the jump was more pronounced in states that had imposed a particularly tough lockdown. Among the age groups, there were significant improvements, especially among people over 50 – this corresponds to the results of the Axa study, according to which this population group is particularly hard hit by the crisis.
However, particularly low levels of mental well-being were still found among those who had lost their jobs. It is obvious.
At the same time, however, it became apparent that even those who went into Homeoffice moved, the stress increased noticeably. Every eighth feels isolated, every fourth feels emotionally drained. Every third person has the feeling that they cannot cope with their workload or they feel exhausted after work.
Women seem to be particularly psychologically stressed, as shown in both surveys. When it comes to mental well-being, their values are well below those of men, and in the Axa study, too, 44 percent of women stated that their challenges and problems in life had increased due to the corona crisis.
Just under one in three men said this. “Women suffer from the triple burden of work and family and also from closed schools,” says Axa boss Vollert.
In his opinion, the corona crisis acts like a catalyst in terms of mental problems. He therefore advocates doing everything possible not to lose the people affected. It is primarily about human fate, but also about the economic impact.
Even before the crisis, twelve percent of Germans were seriously mentally ill – by far the highest figure in the EU. And it could now increase even further.
“Even today, mental health problems are the third most common reason for incapacity to work,” warns Vollert. This affects 15 percent of all sick leave. In addition, these sick leave takes a particularly long time, on average 33.7 days. Mental illness is the cause in over a third of cases of occupational disability.
According to a report by the OECD, the economic costs of mental illness for the entire EU from then 28 countries amounted to 600 billion euros per year in 2018. According to the Federal Statistical Office in Germany, statutory health insurance funds spend 44 billion euros a year on the treatment of such diseases alone.
Axa boss Vollert sees a glimmer of hope. The survey also shows that there is greater attention to the topic and that people are more willing to deal with it. This must be addressed by increasingly making low-threshold offers for early treatment, especially digitally. Then maybe at least some of the psychological damage caused by the pandemic could be limited.