WHO warns of sharp rise in Covid-induced anxiety, depression worldwide; Wake-up call to all countries


Geneva: In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO) today. The brief also highlights who has been most affected and summarises the effect of the pandemic on the availability of mental health services and how this has changed during the pandemic.

World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday of a sharp increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression related to the Covid-19 pandemic, caused largely by social isolation. Young people and women are the worst hit.

Concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90% of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their COVID-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain.

“The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”

“This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”

The WHO brief said that young people, whose mental health has been affected by Covid-19, are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours.

Women have been more severely impacted than men, and people with pre-existing physical health conditions, such as asthma, cancer or heart disease, are more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders when infected with Covid-19.

The pandemic has severely disrupted mental health services worldwide, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most.

Though the situation had somewhat improved by the end of 2021, too many people today remain unable to get the care and support they need for both pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions.

According to a recent WHO survey, 90 per cent of countries are working to provide mental health and psychosocial support to Covid-19 patients and responders alike, but a chronic global shortage of mental health resources still continues today.

The WHO’s most recent “Mental Health Atlas” showed that in 2020, governments worldwide spent on average just over two percent of their health budgets on mental health, and many low-income countries reported having fewer than one mental health worker per 100,000 people.

Covid-19 has “revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all,” said Devora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at the WHO.



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