The Wellcome Global Monitor 2020: Mental Health findings were released earlier this month. As the largest-ever study of public attitudes on mental health, the focus of this project was on mental health, particularly anxiety, depression. The findings from a survey of 119,000 people in 113 countries provide valuable information about anxiety and depression approaches that are most helpful. 

It’s no surprise that the majority of participants in the most recent survey reported challenges with anxiety and depression. Globally, men and women were about equally as likely to say they had been so anxious or depressed that they could not continue their regular daily activities for two weeks or longer. The results varied by age, ranging from 24% of 15-24 year olds responding affirmative to this kind of suffering to 14% of those 65 and older. While the pandemic contributed to these responses, nearly three in four adults (73%) who reported experiencing anxiety or depression said they have felt this way more than once in their lives. The Wellcome Global Monitor uncovered anxiety and depression approaches that are most helpful at alleviating symptoms based on self-reported symptom relief. 

The findings

In an attempt to alleviate depression and anxiety, survey participants tried the following approaches to relieve their anxiety and depression:

  • Talked to friends or family
  • Improved healthy lifestyle behaviors
  • Spent time in nature/the outdoors
  • Made a change to personal relationships
  • Made a change to work situation
  • Took prescribed medication
  • Talked to mental health professional
  • Engaged in spiritual/religious activities

Of these activities, the most helpful anxiety and depression approaches were: 

The take-aways

One of the interesting findings in the report is that the first step to alleviate anxiety or depression for the majority of those surveyed was to talk to friends or family. When they were asked what approaches were the most helpful, however, spending time in nature/the outdoors was perceived as being the most effective, followed closely by improving healthy lifestyle behaviors. While talking to friends or family was still deemed helpful, it wasn’t as impactful as other approaches. Harnessing the influence of nature on wellbeing, making changes to a sedentary lifestyle, or making dietary changes may be anxiety and depression approaches that are most helpful. 

An additional take-away from this survey is that the anxiety and depression approaches that are most helpful don’t align with the traditional treatment approach taken by many in the medical community. Taking prescribed medication was at the bottom of the list of effective actions taken to alleviate anxiety and depression. Just over half of the survey participants believed medication was “very helpful.” If other methods are perceived as more helpful, the medical community has the opportunity to encourage holistic health approaches and a broader range of treatment options for people who are struggling with anxiety and depression. 

Knowing the anxiety and depression approaches that are most helpful to others provides hope to those suffering from these mental health challenges. Check out the Wellcome Global Monitor for more findings about global perceptions of living with anxiety and depression.