What is the mental state of the world right now?

Published 2024-04-12 13:06:58
Meditating - Photo by Andrea Piacquadio in Pexel

According to a recent survey (yes, another one!), mental wellbeing remained stagnant post-pandemic, with mental health quality scores largely unchanged since 2021 and 2022. Contrary to expectations, the general trend of the survey found that wealthier countries fared comparatively poorly, so having access to more money and living in an economically stable country were not necessarily factors that made people happier.

According to the annual Mental State of the World Report, conducted by the Global Mind Project, the UK was voted the second most miserable place. In fact, countries with humanitarian crises fared better than the UK.

The Mental State Of The World Report

The annual Mental State of the World Report, presented by the Global Mind Project, offers a comprehensive analysis of the mental wellbeing trends among internet-enabled populations globally.

In its fourth year, the project collected responses from over 500,000 individuals across 71 countries, which included nine geographic regions: Core Anglosphere, Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Central, South and Southeast Asia, and West and North Africa. Data were collected in 13 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), German, Swahili, Hindi, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, and Simplified Chinese—expanding to seven additional countries and four new languages compared to 2022.

As of October 2023, there were 5.3 billion active Internet users worldwide, constituting 65.7% of the global population. Notably, in countries like the United States, where internet penetration exceeds 90%, the Global Mind data closely mirrors trends observed in national census data.

However, the report's results may be skewed because only internet-enabled respondents could participate and due to language restrictions, large populations were excluded from the survey. In regions such as Asia and Africa, where internet access is less prevalent and typically limited to higher socioeconomic groups or those with advanced education levels, the data may not accurately represent offline populations. Consequently, country-level trends may deviate significantly from those reported by the Global Mind Project.

The data collection method involved the Mental Health Quotient (MHQ) assessment, an extensive online survey measuring cognitive and emotional capabilities, resulting in an overall mental wellbeing metric known as the MHQ score.

Key points from the report in 2023:

Overall, mental wellbeing remained stagnant at post-pandemic lows, failing to rebound to pre-pandemic levels. Globally and within individual countries, MHQ scores remained relatively unchanged compared to 2021 and 2022. This underscores concerns regarding the enduring effects of the pandemic and how societal changes, such as remote work, online communication, and unhealthy habits, have collectively contributed to declining mental wellbeing.

Contrary to expectations, several African and Latin American countries ranked highest in mental wellbeing, while wealthier Western countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, ranked lower. This suggests that economic development does not necessarily correlate with higher mental wellbeing.

Overall, the report paints a concerning picture of post-pandemic mental health prospects, emphasising the urgent need to understand the underlying drivers of collective mental wellbeing.

Country rankings

Mental wellbeing maintained relative stability for most countries since 2021 with rankings relatively unchanged.

The Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania lead the rankings with MHQ scores of 88 or higher. Conversely, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan (Russian Speaking) occupy the bottom positions, with MHQ scores ranging from 48 to 53. There is a 14.3% difference in MHQ scores between the highest and lowest-ranked countries.

Overall, Spanish-speaking Latin American countries dominate the top half of the rankings. In contrast, English-speaking South Asia, Russian-speaking Central Asia, and countries of the Core Anglosphere occupy the bottom third.

Sri Lanka, Italy, Georgia and Nigeria have the lowest percentages of respondents who are Distressed or Struggling (ranging from 14 to 17%).
Conversely, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom all show the largest proportion of respondents who are Distressed or Struggling, ranging from 34-35%.

Only nine countries showed a gain or decline in MHQ scores of more than ±2.0% compared to last year, with no countries showing a change greater than ±2.9%.

The percentage of Distressed or Struggling was also generally static. Only three countries had a change of over ±1.5%, with the maximum change being ±1.9%.

Trends to Explain the Country Rankings

Notably, the top ranks are predominantly held by Latin American and African nations like Tanzania, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, whereas wealthier nations of the Core Anglosphere, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, tend to be positioned towards the lower end. This contradicts the common assumption that wealth correlates with wellbeing.

The 2021 annual report showed a significant negative correlation between the average mental wellbeing scores of internet-enabled populations and economic indicators, like per capita GDP and the Human Development Index.

In 2023, investigators began to look into these results and found three key points of particular importance and concern.

Firstly, the report found a correlation between the age at which individuals receive their first smartphone and their subsequent mental health outcomes. By analyzing the data, investigators observed that for today's 18-24-year-olds, who are the first generation born into the smartphone and social media era, those who acquired their first smartphone at a younger age tended to exhibit poorer mental health outcomes in adulthood. Countries with higher average ages for smartphone ownership generally fared better in this regard, whereas those with youngerages, particularly in the Core Anglosphere, experienced more pronounced negative effects.

Secondly, the report highlighted the impact of ultra-processed food consumption on mental wellbeing. Based on the data acquired, they found that more frequent consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with significantly poorer mental wellbeing across all age groups, exacerbating symptoms of depression and impairing emotional and cognitive control.

Similar to smartphone ownership, less developed countries tended to have lower levels of ultra-processed food consumption, while Core Anglosphere countries like the United States and the United Kingdom exhibited higher rates.

Lastly, the research highlighted the importance of family bonds in mental wellbeing. They found that 10% of 18-24-year-olds reported not getting along with any family members and preferred not to see them, in contrast to only 3% of the oldest generation.

Strong familial relationships were shown to reduce the risk of mental health challenges in adulthood significantly. Wealthier countries, particularly those in the Core Anglosphere, reported lower levels of closeness to family members and less stable and loving childhood homes.

Collectively, these findings suggest that greater wealth and economic development do not necessarily lead to improved mental wellbeing. Instead, they may contribute to consumption patterns and social dynamics that are harmful to overall thriving.
This underscores the importance of moving beyond purely economic metrics and focusing on holistic approaches to prosperity that prioritise human wellbeing.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for EasyExpat.com

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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