Mental health is seen as just as important as physical health in much of the world, a U.S. News survey finds.
The World Health Organization’s annual World Mental Health Day – celebrated this year on Oct. 10 – commemorates the idea that “mental health is a universal human right.”
And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – which saw a rise in prevalence of anxiety and depression levels worldwide – many seem to think of mental health care as just as important as their physical health care, a U.S. News survey of more than 17,000 individuals from 36 nations finds. Conducted as part of the 2023 Best Countries rankings, the survey found that nearly 93% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Mental health care is just as important as physical health care.”
Though the level of support varied across countries and age groups, nearly 55% of survey respondents said they “strongly agree” with the idea that mental health care was as important as physical health care, compared to 1.2% who said they “strongly disagree.”
Worldwide, the survey found a higher share of women agreed that mental health care was as important as physical health care. Women were also more emphatic in their support of the statement, with more than 62% of women respondents saying they “strongly agree” with the statement, compared to 48% of men.
Older respondents were more supportive of the mental health statement than younger survey respondents. Among the respondents 55 years of age and older, 96% agreed that mental health care was as important as physical health care, compared to 87% of respondents between 18 and 24.
At the country level, Indonesia had the largest percentage of respondents who said they agreed with mental health care being as important as physical health care, at nearly 96.9%, followed by Thailand, Kenya, Finland and Denmark, all of which saw 96% agreement or above. By contrast, only 87% of respondents in Sweden agreed that mental care was as important as physical care, the lowest percentage of any country among the 36 the survey was fielded in.
Kenya had the highest share of respondents of any country who said they “strongly agree” that mental health care is as important as physical health care, at 77%. Mental health has been a particularly large concern in Kenya, where according to the WHO, an estimated one in every four people who seek health care in the country has a mental health condition.
Overall, the survey found over 50% of respondents in most countries said they “strongly agree” that mental health care is as important as physical health care, with eight exceptions: Denmark, Germany, Israel, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, France and China. China was the only country where more respondents said they “moderately agree” rather than “strongly agree” with the statement that mental health care is as important as physical care.
Overall, the survey’s findings help to highlight concerns that the rise in mental health disorders has become a public health threat for many countries.
An estimated 1 in 8 people around the world live with a mental health disorder, according to the WHO, with suicide accounting for 1 in every 100 deaths globally. Despite the need, the WHO estimates countries on average dedicate less than 2% of their health care budgets toward mental health.