Davos Report Says the World Is Suffering from Poor Mental Health

275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders globally.

It's no secret that the state of our collective mental health in the United States isn't exactly great right now. Our happiness is at historic lows, our suicide rates are up, and studies indicate that our youth are plagued by loneliness. Making matters worse, it appears that our suffering extends to the rest of the world.

According to a new report published by the World Economic Forum, anxiety disorders officially afflict 4 percent of the global population. An estimated 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders total, around 62 percent of whom are women. With these numbers, anxiety now beats depression, alcoholism, drug use, and other disorders as the leading mental health problem around the world.

It's crucial to discuss these issues, as mental health doesn't get nearly as much attention as the obesity or opioid epidemic—in spite of all of the research indicating that our mental health has a real effect on our physical health.

"Health systems have not yet adequately responded to the burden of mental disorders," an April 2018 report by the WEF notes. "As a consequence, the gap between the need for treatment and its provision is wide all over the world. In low- and middle-income countries, between 76 percent and 85 percent of people with mental disorders receive no treatment for their disorder. In high-income countries, between 35 percent and 50 percent of people with mental disorders are in the same situation."

According to the annual report, the primary concern for business leaders is climate change, followed by cyber-security, the economy, and worsening international relations.

"The world is sleep-walking into catastrophe," Alison Martin, group chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, said ahead of next week's World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

"The world economy is facing a 'perfect storm' in 2019," says a video posted by the WEF. "Trade tensions are rising between major powers and global growth is slowing. The global debt burden is significantly higher than before the 2008 crash—at around 225 percent of GDP. And though global inequality has dipped since 2000, inequality within countries has continued to rise, damaging trust and social cohesion. After a period of globalization, the world is now diverging, making it difficult to make collective progress and cooperation on global challenges, such as protecting the environment and preparing the workforce for automation. If another global crisis hits, previous levels of cooperation and support may not emerge."

If you're one of the 275 million people suffering from anxiety, we'd urge you to do several things. Study after study has shown that meditation is just as effective—if not more so—than we ever thought.

It's also important to take deep breaths, strike a good posture, and to get in as much outdoors time as you can. (A 90-minute walk in the park can calm the mind and lower activity in the brain region linked to depression, says Stanford researchers.) And, for heaven's sake, put down your phone. (After all, here are 20 ways social media is already stressing you out.) And for more on how anxiety affects you in harmful ways, check out the 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Body.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more