Future Risk Report findings

PUBLISHED: 1 March 2023 | LAST UPDATED: 24 June 2024

Recent research from AXA’s Future Risk Report, a global study that provides  an overview of the major risks of tomorrow has revealed that the general public’s health concerns are both persisting and broadening, especially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In 2021, almost half of general public respondents who selected pandemics among their top risks cited the long-term impacts of Covid as their main concern. In 2022, that rate decreased and members of the public are more worried about new strains of other infectious diseases. With new health scares such as the monkeypox outbreak, news of polio in UK sewage waters and the recent Strep A surge regularly featuring in the media, it’ll be no surprise if this public focus on health risks continues for months to come.

The increased concern around physical health since the pandemic is to be expected, but what often gets overlooked is the great toll the pandemic took on mental health. This psychological impact, especially when combined with the potential mental health impacts of growing political turmoil and other external factors, was highlighted in AXA’s report.

In the survey, mental health is classified under ‘risks related to changing health practices and new occupational diseases’. The category ranked slightly higher in 2022 compared to 2021, but the reasons for choosing the risk were different – in fact, over-dependence on medication (45%) has over taken mental health (27%) as the top concern.

The Mind Health Study that we released in 2022 found that mental wellbeing is second only to the economy as the biggest casualty of the Covid pandemic. Given the unprecedented events of the last few years, it’s not surprising that people are getting caught up in physical health concerns, but it’s incredibly important that we don’t further neglect our mental health. 

Physical and mental health are greatly intertwined, and neglecting your mental health can actually have a detrimental effect on your physical health – after all, the brain is part of the body. For example, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness, while poor mental health can also increase someone’s risk for physical health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

The impacts on physical health aside, there are many positives that come from paying genuine, significant attention to our mental health – for example, being able to better nurture our relationships and foster creativity and productivity, and simply being able to enjoy life a little more. 

So, in a world where mental health needs to be addressed more adequately, what steps could improve services for those in need?

  • Teletherapy and online counselling: making therapy and counselling more easily accessible via digital methods means a more convenient service for users. The physical barriers to accessing therapy and counselling, like time, travel and privacy, are reduced, and users can take sessions in whichever environment feels most comfortable to them. Ultimately, this can have a positive influence on the effectiveness of sessions and results, as patients will feel able to converse more openly. 

  • Integrating mental healthcare in primary care settings: taking mental health into consideration at every stage of a patient’s contact with primary care teams could give them the confidence they need to seek help. That’s because a focus on mental healthcare in a more immediate, general sense destigmatises the topic and encourages patients to talk more freely about their overarching wellbeing.

  • Innovative efforts to train physicians to combine expertise in physical and mental healthcare, putting the patient at the centre: ensuring that physicians are true experts in how mental and physical health intersect is vital. Offering a patient-centric outlook and considering helpful solutions from a patient’s point of view can help to provide more individualised – and therefore more effective - treatment plans.

According to reports from the World Health Organisation, the Covid pandemic has widely affected mental health, with a large number of people reporting psychological distress and symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress. In addition, AXA's Mind Health Study raises concerns about mental health in the younger generation as a result of their potentially harmful relationship with technology.

Coupled with the disruption to mental health services seen during and beyond the pandemic, there’s never been a greater need to check in on those around you who might be struggling. 

In a world where we’re becoming generally more risk averse, it’s time we gave mental health risks the attention they really need. If you're abroad and it's tricky to communicate with the local healthcare, you can check out options like virtual doctor services that can help you remotely. From April, AXA is providing direct access to their Mind Health Service for their members, removing the need for referral from a Virtual Doctor.

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.