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Work & Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion Mental Health

People in APAC facing immense mental health struggles due to Covid-19 pandemic and stigma


By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

October 8, 2021 | 4 min read

The Covid-19-pandemic has had a profound impact on the well-being of people in the Asia Pacific.


Mental health stigma remains prevalent in many Asian markets

The increasing demands of modern life, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic have added even greater pressures, with people in China at 48%, India at 45%, and Japan at 40% agreeing that stress is the biggest threat to wellness, according to McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific’s “The Truth about Culture & Covid-19, the Truth about Gen Z and the Truth about Wellness” study.

“It is clear that more action is needed around mental health. With consumers believing in the power of brands to make a difference, there are opportunities for brands to step up and consider their role in mental wellness to be more cognizant, supportive, and action-oriented,” said Richard McCabe, chief strategy officer at McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific.

“Seeing the specific challenges and perspectives in APAC, brands may wish to consider their role as companions along that journey and how they can help to optimize the wellbeing people strive for.’”

What did the study find?

  • Mental health stigma remains prevalent in many Asian markets, deeply rooted in a culture of collectivism and the concept of ‘face’ was to be different may be deemed undesirable and humiliates one’s family.

  • The answer - “a state of mind / my emotions” ranked at 31% globally vs. only 16% China and 9% Japan, with both of these markets interpreting wellness as more of a “physical state” Despite this, China and Japan both index higher than the global average on the perspective of wellness being “a way of life”, indicating a more holistic view.

  • People are feeling more anxious than before because of Covid-19, and APAC markets index higher than the global average of 30.5%, with 42.5% for Japan, and 31.6% for China.

  • 50% of people in China and 34% of people in Japan feel that mental health is difficult to talk about versus a global average of 36%.

  • The struggle with mental health for Gen Z is especially pronounced as compared with 58% of the general population globally, 69% of Gen Zs in APAC (compared with 61% average across all age groups) feel pressure to be constantly busy, with Hong Kong, India, and Indonesia topping the list.

  • 70% of Gen Zs in India and 67% of Gen Zs in Thailand report feeling lonely despite being surrounded by family and friends, whilst all APAC markets showed significant differences for Gen Z vs the general population (with Singapore and Indonesia showing the largest gap of over 10% difference.)

  • 76% of Gen Zs in APAC believe emotional connections are weaker today than they were in the past (in line with global sentiment), however, India and Indonesia exceed this at 86% and 84% respectively.

  • “Problems with my mental health” remain the #1 most difficult topic for Gen Z to discuss with their peers, ahead of other sensitive subjects such as “money troubles” or “relationship problems”. In Singapore alone, 27% of Gen Z overall believe mental health is the most difficult thing to discuss.

  • When split by gender, (globally) 53% of Gen Z men agree that “suppressing your feelings and emotions is a good thing”, compared with 40% of Gen Z women.

  • Despite the challenges, there is an increased focus on mental wellbeing and conversations are happening at government, community, brand (business), and individual levels.

  • One-fifth of people surveyed in China, India, and Japan say that mental health is their top health priority for the future, and with 56% of people in China looking for more daily wellness support (vs. a global average of 20%), opportunities to partner abound.

  • Is technology making the world better or sicker? The global average consensus is almost evenly split in response to this. However, China is overwhelmingly positive on the role of technology in health and wellness, with 91% of people surveyed believing technology has a positive role to play.

Work & Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion Mental Health

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