How COVID-19 is affecting mental health across the globe

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
December 10, 2020, 2:30 PM UTC

A new international YouGov study looks at attitudes to mental health in different countries 

The results of a new international YouGov survey, conducted among more than 21,000 people in 16 countries and regions, shows that the coronavirus crisis has taken a serious toll on mental health across the world. 

A majority (56%) of Americans say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health. But they are not necessarily the ones hit the hardest. Almost two-thirds (65%) of Britons say that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the state of their mental health, including 10% who say it has had a “very negative” impact. 

Hong Kongers are the second most likely to report a deterioration in their mental health, at 63%, followed by Italians at 62%. 

There is only one place in which fewer than half of people say their mental health has been suffering: Germany, at ‘just’ 44%. 

How prevalent are mental health problems like depression and anxiety across the world? 

The survey also looked more broadly at mental health problems across the world. 

Australians are the most likely to say they suffer from a mental health condition, at 35%. Almost a quarter of Australians (23%) say they have depression, while another 23% suffer from an anxiety disorder (there will be overlap, with some experiencing more than one issue). Another 9% suffer from some other condition. 

In the US, 21% of respondents say they have depression and 23% anxiety, with one in three (34%) saying they suffer from at least one affliction – the second-highest rate in the study. 

These are the highest rates for anxiety disorder and depression reported across the study, although the anxiety figure is tied with the US and Indonesia. 

In Britain, 20% report having anxiety and an identical 20% depression, with 30% overall saying they have at least one mental health problem. 

People in Hong Kong, Denmark and Singapore are the least likely to report having mental health problems, with 17% saying they live with at least one condition. 

How seriously do people take mental health problems in different countries? 

A core concept that mental health campaigners are trying to achieve is ‘parity of esteem’ – that is to say, that mental health issues are taken as seriously as physical health problems. 

Britons are the most likely to have accepted that this is the case, with more than three-quarters (77%) saying they consider both to be equally serious. One in eight Britons (12%) say that physical health problems are more serious, while a further 7% consider mental health problems to be worse. 

Parity of esteem is next highest in Australia (71%) and Denmark (70%). The US comes fourth, with 69% of Americans saying they see mental health concerns and physical health concerns as equal 

It is lowest in the UAE, at 48%. 

See full results here.  

Methodology: 19,189 adults, including 2,014 US adults, were surveyed. Interviews were conducted online between November 2 – 11, 2020.

Image: Gender Spectrum Collection