Thanks to the disruption felt by the pandemic, mental health came to the forefront as a concern. Many factors, related to restrictions, lockdowns, and economic disturbances led to increased distress felt by people of all ages. As companies engage in this conversation, many wonder where pharma will stand. Will there be a new investment from this sector to tackle this issue?
Mental health in Europe: Key stats
In Europe, more specialists are calling out to governments on the state of mental health. During the pandemic, there were two groups of people particularly affected by this, and these were:
- Women; and
Recent studies and reports show that in this period at least 83% of women went through a heavy burden when compared to men (36%). Among those more affected were women who were either pregnant, in the postpartum period, or experiencing trauma.
This is also a serious issue when it comes to children. According to UNICEF, nine million young people in Europe, between the ages of 10 and 19, live with a mental disorder. In a specific inquiry of 25,000 children in France, 76.6% admitted to feeling “sad or blue”. 64.2% said they’ve lost their confidence and 53,3% said they don’t feel like doing anything.
When it comes to the economic impact of mental health disorders, there’s a clear undermining. Only up to 5% of the total government health expenditure focuses on mental health across Europe. The good news is that these situations are better in Nothern and Central Europe.
It’s not only governments that are underinvesting in the field of mental health. For years, the pharmaceutical industry left this health field a little on the side road after the 50s. Within that period came the successful development of antidepressants and antipsychotics that were commercial successes for patients tormented by mental issues.
One of the last significant drugs that came to this market was Prozac in the late 80s. It’s estimated that within the last decade, the number of clinical research programs undertaken by major pharma players decreased by 70%. Much of this had to do with the elevated costs of undertaking extensive clinical trials. Even before the pandemic came, this issue was already in consideration.
A changing mental health market
When the pandemic came there was an increase in mental health issues. Many people started suffering from or acknowledging their disorders, pointing to a prevalent lack of support.
Some of the most prevalent illnesses were:
- Anxiety disorders;
- Substance abuse;
- Eating disorders;
- Bipolar disorder; and
A significant number of these people suffered from these issues before. Others began to as a consequence of the pandemic’s disruption in their lives.
To tackle these disorders, a number of pharma and healthcare companies began developing new solutions to tackle these disorders. The 2020s remote environment had a great influence on the new possibilities rising for mental health.
The “mental health crisis” didn’t only strike Europe. The whole world felt an increase in this problem. This led many organizations to think about new solutions. Through cutting-edge research, contemporary methodologies, and innovative product application, there were new solutions to tackle mental health.
Among the notorious innovations were virtual therapy apps. Calm and Headspace are two of the most prevalent names patients know. It’s estimated that as of June 2020, there were 90 million users of meditation and mindfulness apps.
The rising interest in psychedelics is also one of the biggest breakthroughs in pharma technology. According to specialists, people now view medicine differently. The legalization of cannabis in some parts of the world is one of the elements that are, and will, disrupt pharma.
Europe is leading in the psychedelic industry. Since 2018, it has been accounting for over half of its investment. Nonetheless, the investments appear now more relevant in the US rather than in Europe.
Indirectly, psychedelics are interrelated with the increase in mental health app usage. Users are using two apps named Mindleap and Trip to have an immersive psychedelic experience through sounds and visuals. Pharma is observing this market. So, in the future, this might influence mental health disorder treatment.
The rising technology that’s been making its way to pharma and healthcare workforces will have a great impact on mental health. Medical professionals are testing some elements, such as:
- Digital engagement platforms…
Wearables are an evolving technology that can measure the stats of many users. Smartwatches in particular are popular, having the capacity to measure:
- Heart rate;
- Sedentary levels;
- Sleep quality;
- Blood pressure;
- …and more!
In a couple of years from now, these elements may be able to track any disruptions related to mental health in many users.
Even though there’s still limited research on the effectiveness of many of the mentioned options, these elements are not going unnoticed by many companies. The disruption of the pandemic exposed a variety of flaws in several health areas.
Mental health was underrated by several companies for years, yet now there seems to be an increasing interest in tackling this market again. New studies, along with the evolution of new technologies are opening up new possibilities for treatments of issues of this nature.
A research-driven industry will be further bolstered, offering hope to many patients. Many of them are in desperate need of alternative, effective therapies. Even though it seems like a small step now, it may become a relevant change in the future.
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