Prior to 2020, mental disorders were leading causes of the global health burden, with depressive and anxiety disorders being the major contributors.
COVID-19 has exacerbated this, with the number of people living with depressive and anxiety disorders increasing by more than a quarter in 2020.
Inevitably, COVID-19 radically shifted the daily life and working conditions of Australians by increasing job insecurity, financial strain, and isolation. This has amplified the already significant demand for mental health services, products and solutions.
Since the pandemic, 61 per cent of Australians have taken actions to help manage their mental health with around 612,000 accessing these via phone or digital technologies.
Understanding the drivers of mental wellbeing can help us to focus on measures that prevent the development or deterioration of mental health conditions.
Thriving communities engender a sense of belonging that develops from social connections between people.
The significant measures implemented to minimise the spread of the virus created unprecedented environmental conditions, which altered the social dynamics of individuals and communities and highlighted the importance of the role that social connectedness plays in wellbeing.
With nations around the globe implementing lockdowns and social distancing measures, the past two years have created a unique opportunity to understand the role that social connection plays in contributing to mental wellbeing.
This paper looks at the insights gained from this unintended 'social experiment' and how social connection can be harnessed to promote and protect mental and physical wellbeing.
It also examines the role that programs and organisations play to improve social connection and broader mental wellbeing. 61% of Australians have taken actions to help manage their mental health.
'The hunger to connect and belong is at the heart of our human nature,' says Dr. Jaime Lee, AIA Vitality Ambassador. 'The last two years of repeated lockdowns, stress and isolation have impacted our mental health and increasingly more people are experiencing burnout.
'When we lose our social connectedness, we are at risk of losing our mental flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to negativity and fear. We live in times that require more humanity, compassion and generosity.
'So let’s focus on the small steps we can take with our family and strangers alike to build a deeper sense of belonging as a nation,' she says.