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Blog | 15 Sep 2022

Key Trends and Statistics in Relation to Mental Health and Wellness in Asia

This opinion piece forms part of our IMPACTxAsia blog series

Key Trends and Statistics in Relation to Mental Health and Wellness in Asia

Introduction from Swire

“This week we caught up with Dimuthu de Silva, Head of Consulting & Training for Community Business to discuss key trends in relation to mental health and wellness in Asia. Dimuthu talks about the impact of the pandemic and how we can - as individuals and businesses – support our people and each other as the world opens up again.” 

What has been the most surprising statistic and the most concerning? 

A McKinsey report suggests that depression and anxiety has affected a quarter of the respondents in Asia. While this is a shocking statistic, it is perhaps unsurprising given the turmoil of the last few years. Many people across the region have felt isolated by the circumstances the pandemic created, allowing mental health issues to breed and multiply. One should remember that, once we return to “normal” in the physical sense after a period of disruption such as COVID-19 presented, the same is not true for our mental wellbeing. For many, it has been really hard to let go of emotional burnout issues that have been brewing for the last two years. In fact, Community Business has had to deliver multiple sessions on dealing with anxiety, depression and loneliness to major Asian markets, suggesting that the problems are very much still present.  
 

Now more than two years in to the pandemic (with a possible light at the end of the tunnel) what are the short term and long term impacts you’ve observed in terms of Mental Health and Wellness?  

There are definite impacts. In particular, we have seen many cases of identity anxiety reported. That is, people finding it hard to reconcile with their identities, the tension between who they were and who they are now. Cases of burnout and heightened stress and anxiety continue to cause numerous wellbeing problems. Fortune Magazine reports that cases of risky sexual behaviour, quiet quitting and drunk driving are on the rise signaling the impact of the ‘new normal’ on people. Ultimately, we must accept that the pandemic has placed additional and unusual strain on people and the results of this are likely to be with us for a lot longer than we realise.  

 

As Hong Kong starts to open to the world, how do we think this will affect people – what can we expect?  

A recent government press release noted that Hong Kongers are likely to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other associated behaviours as a result of the pandemic.  Many residents are trying to cope with ideas of lost time, lost opportunities and loss of dear ones which continue to impact mental health and general wellbeing. In addition, the potential influx of people to what has been a very isolated city for the last two years may cause a spike in anxiety for those who have taken solace in the fact that they have been shielded from the virus and chosen not to vaccinate. For those who are keen to travel and visit family or friends overseas, the barrier of inflated airfare prices may cause even more grief with opportunities to spread their wings being hampered by financial rather than government restrictions.  

 

How can we as individuals (and as a business) prepare/ support? (eg the trauma caused by the pandemic, lost loved ones, disconnection, the ‘loss of time’ etc) 

With the points stated earlier, it is necessary that organisations continue build on their Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to strengthen their commitment to and support of employees. With the recession looming and some individuals facing additional financial stress, employees will look towards organisations to supplement their wellbeing benefits and to help look after their wellbeing. Given the sheer numbers of hours spent working in a day, organsiations should take efforts to increase inclusion and belonging, ensuring that the workplace provides a steady and safe haven for people who are struggling with uncertainty in other aspects of their life. 

 

As we look ahead to 2023, what do you think the key priorities will be in terms of health and wellness? What should businesses consider/ focus on? 

  1. Considering intersectional identities when designing wellbeing programmes 

  1. Building holistic programmes that address various aspects of wellness and wellbeing 

  1. Building employee capability on resilience and anti-fragility. 

 

About the AuthorDimuthu de Silva, Head of Consulting & Training at Community Business