Millennials and women most affected in New Zealand’s pandemic mental health crisis
More Kiwis are reaching out for mental health support than ever before, with women and millennials most impacted by the pandemic according to recent claims data from leading health insurer, nib New Zealand (nib).
nib Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin, said psychiatric claims increased 225% between January 2019 and December 2021.*
“Living through the pandemic has been an experience like none other. The impact of COVID-19 and all that comes with it - including extended periods of time isolated from families, colleagues and friends - has had an real impact on the health and wellbeing of our community which is reflected in our claims experience,” Mr Hennin said.
“Women were overrepresented, accounting for 67% of all psychiatric claims and exceeding claims made by men in almost every demographic. In addition, millennials were adversely affected, representing 61% of mental health claims during the period.**
“It’s why we made it our priority to increase our mental health cover last year, offering our members support from registered psychologists and psychiatrists with no waiting periods, excess or exclusions for pre-existing conditions,” he added.
Clearhead founder and Chief Executive, Dr Angela Lim, said their digital mental health platform also experienced an increase in demand for their services, with over half of its platform users being female.
“We delivered four times the amount of therapy sessions in 2021 compared to the previous year and had eight times more Kiwis using our self-help mental health services,” Dr Lim said.
“Many of the women who said they were struggling, were also in the millennial age bracket, and often expressed they were finding difficult to shoulder the increased burden of family obligations, alongside rising pressures at work due to the high levels of change and uncertainty,” Dr Lim added.
Clearhead also found loneliness and a lack of purpose to be two leading causes of psychological distress among their users and this peaked during COVID-19 lockdown periods.
Mr Hennin said to help address this increasing need for mental health support nib’s charitable entity, nib foundation, partnered with Clearhead to develop a digital tool via their online platform to help young adults find their purpose in life.
“When nib foundation spoke to Clearhead they said that, at the height of the pandemic, 53% of users were reporting high anxiety levels while 28% were reporting feelings of loneliness,” Mr Hennin said.
“It’s important to us then that we direct our funding towards supporting organisations who are addressing the needs of the Kiwi community through interactive digital tools like Clearhead’s digital tool for finding life purpose and are passionate about innovating towards a healthier future for all New Zealanders,” he added.
Dr Lim said the timing for the tool, which will be released later this year, has never been more crucial given the recent findings, as well as continuing to provide access to Clearhead’s broader online mental health services.
“Now as restrictions are being removed, many users have expressed feelings of ‘re-entry’ anxiety when facing social situations. As we navigate this post-pandemic period, our focus is on how connections are a way of improving mental wellbeing, developing a sense of meaning in your life and cultivating support structures that helps us build both individual and societal resilience,” Dr Lim said.
“Through the use of our platform, we hope to see people transition back into a world that is opening up with more confidence and security,” she added.
*nib also experienced a 65% increase in members choosing policies which included mental health cover during the 2019 – 2021 period. **Claims data refers to Jan 2019 – Dec 2021 period.
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