Study suggests a mental-health silver lining to the pandemic: a boost to people’s resilience in Asia

AXA Mind Health Index shows skills needed to become ‘fit to flourish’

As part of its commitment to combating the stigma surrounding mental illness and promoting holistic health, AXA today announced the results of its annual AXA Study of Mind Health and Wellbeing 2022 (the AXA Mind Health Study) that examines the building blocks of mental wellbeing in Europe and Asia including Hong Kong. It is also launching the AXA Mind Health Index, designed to monitor changes in mind health over time. Together these resources are part of the company’s effort to equip individuals and businesses with the insights they need to foster positive mind health, contribute to effecting change in society and ultimately become ‘fit to flourish’.

The AXA Mind Health Study was conducted across 11 European and Asian countries/territories, namely, France, the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan, in September and October 2021, involving a total of 11,000 respondents.

Respondents to the survey were classified into four mind-health states based on their responses, from “flourishing” at the top to “getting by”, “languishing” and “struggling” at the lower end. Flourishing refers to the pinnacle of mind health, whilst getting by describes those who may have some areas of good wellbeing but not enough to reach the state of flourishing, languishing represents the absence of positive wellbeing, and struggling is associated with emotional stress and psychosocial impairment.

Hong Kong has 17% of respondents claim that they are flourishing, and 35% getting by. We have the second largest proportion languishing at 33%, following Japan at 35%. There is also 15% of respondents consider themselves struggling.

A silver lining in the pandemic: Greater mind-health awareness and increased resilience

While the pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us in some way or another, there is a silver lining for mind health in the form of greater awareness and increased resilience. After the economy (56%), mind health (46%) is the second most common thing that most people around the globe think the pandemic will have a lasting impact on. People in most Asia countries/territories (42%) were also more likely to say the pandemic had improved their ability to meet big challenges than in European countries (33%). In Hong Kong, 41% of people agreed that they have become more resilient.

While stigma and social taboos have often prevented people from seeking help, the pandemic has pushed mind health discussions to the fore. In Europe, 31% of respondents said the stigma around mind health conditions had declined since the pandemic began. However, in Asia that figure was higher at 33%, with Hong Kong lower at 27%.

10 skills are key to the path to flourishing

Mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression are common among people in Asia according to the survey. Yet while these mental health conditions are generally detrimental to happiness, people who manage them well were almost as likely to be happy as those without the conditions. This is reinforced by the finding that the primary driver of differences between the four states of struggling, languishing, getting by and flourishing, apart from mind health conditions, is the number of skills people have.

The research identified 10 key skills that together help one become ‘fit to flourish’, reaching the peak of mind health. These are emotional intelligence (EQ), self-acceptance, connectedness, pride in achievement, meaning and purpose, challenge response, resilience, self-confidence, close relationships and physical health behaviours. As a person’s number of skills grows, so too does the likelihood of their flourishing. People need at least eight skills to reach that state.

Sally Wan

Chief Executive Officer, AXA Greater China

“The outbreak of COVID-19 is definitely a source of unexpected stress and challenge, but it is encouraging to see that 41% of the people in Hong Kong think they have built more resilience during the pandemic. At AXA, our Purpose is to ‘Act for human progress to protect what matters’. Mental health can have serious impact on productivity and is a crucial contributor to the sustainable development of our community. That is why we have been dedicating efforts in eradicating stigma and raising awareness of mental health via our holistic wellness platform ‘AXA BetterMe’, which offers our customers and the community free mental health resources such as ‘Mind Charger’. Just last October, we organised a large-scale community event BetterMe Weekend on World Mental Health Day with different free mental wellness workshops. Knowing that the working class in Hong Kong is constantly under high stress, we have enhanced the mental health support to our Employee Benefits customers by introducing exclusive mind health network and innovative digital one-stop psychological consultation platform named Mind Healer. With the innovative product offerings and community investment, AXA fosters the social progress and support the sustainable development of our society to build a community that is truly healthy.”