Covid-19 has had a tragic effect on mental well-being around the world, leading to an increase in severe anxiety and depression across the world, according to a new report published yesterday in the medical journal The Lancet. Compared with 2019, cases of major depressive disorder increased by 28% and cases of severe anxiety increased by 26%.
Without Covid-19, researchers estimated after examining 48 datasets covering 204 countries, there would have been around 193 million cases of depression worldwide (2,471 cases per 100,000 people) and 298 million cases of depression. anxiety (3,825 per 100,000) in 2020. Covid-19 – and its consequences, including bereavement, illness and lack of mobility – added millions more cases, especially where outbreaks were more severe. Globally, in 2020, there were 246 million cases of depression and 374 million cases of anxiety. Women are more affected than men, accounting for 66% of additional cases of depression and 68% of those of anxiety.
Even before this peak, only 30% of people worldwide have reliable access to mental health treatment. According to the World Health Organization, this number declines even more in low- and middle-income countries, where less than 24% of people have access to mental health treatment.
New investment opportunities in behavioral health
In the United States, 30% of adults have mental health problems, but only 37% of those who need mental health services have access to them. This is especially true in rural areas like Wyoming, where 96% of the population lives in areas without reliable access to mental health, or Utah, where 83% do.
Until recently, this strong demand had not resulted in an increase in supply. Many mental health workers are aging, but low reimbursement rates for demanding work with high risk of burnout have discouraged new practitioners from replacing them.
But the dramatic increase in the need for mental health services that emerged during the pandemic has started to attract investors. This is in part because the expansion of telehealth services is making it easier to start mental health businesses, especially in areas with low patient numbers.
Since 2020, behavioral health acquisitions have exploded in the United States, making it the most sought-after sector in healthcare transactions. In 2020, venture capital funds invested $ 1.5 billion in mental health startups, and 2021 saw an increase in investment of over 70% over 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, there is had 29 behavioral health mergers and acquisitions, and the pace hasn’t given up since.
In particular, private equity invested in drug treatment centers, taking advantage of the fact that many existing providers experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic. Meanwhile, major telehealth providers, such as K Health and AmWell, continue to acquire digital mental health companies, consolidating remote health services.