• Malaysia, Australia and China are most trusting of their healthcare systems, finds the Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor 2020.
  • COVID-19, cancer, mental health, stress and obesity are perceived as the biggest health problems.
  • A third of people are optimistic their country’s healthcare will improve, but 16% disagree, with those with established healthcare systems most pessimistic.

As health services around the world battle COVID-19, public trust in them is growing.

A survey of more than 20,000 adults across 27 countries by Ipsos found rising levels of satisfaction and trust in health services.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic putting huge strain on healthcare systems of countries around the world, we find more people worldwide giving positive ratings of the health services they have access to than two years ago,” Ipsos says of its Global Health Service Monitor 2020.

Half of people surveyed believe they will receive the best treatment from their country’s healthcare services. This is up from 41% in the last survey in 2018.

Trust in healthcare
Trust in healthcare has grown from 41% to 50% since 2018.
Image: Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor 2020.

Healthcare perceptions

Trust is highest in Malaysia (75%), Australia (74%) and China (74%) and lowest in Hungary (16%), Russia (16%) and Poland (18%).

Compared with the last survey, the greatest increases in trust in healthcare are in China (up 28 points on the 2018 study), Saudi Arabia (+21) and South Korea (+18).

In terms of quality, healthcare services are rated most highly by the public in Australia (81%), the Netherlands (76%) and Great Britain (74%).

“The three countries where people are most likely to rate their healthcare as ‘poor’ are Poland (53%), Hungary (42%) and Peru (40%),” Ipsos says. “We see the greatest increases in quality ratings for healthcare in Saudi Arabia (+19), China (+14), Brazil and Sweden (both +13).”

Systemic challenges

The biggest perceived challenges in healthcare systems relate to access to treatment, long waiting times and the system being overstretched/understaffed. Cost is also a consideration in many countries.

“Across all countries, 55% say their healthcare system is overstretched,” Ipsos says. “This is a problem regardless of how highly countries rate their healthcare system.”

Great Britain, Hungary, Sweden, Spain and Peru most agree that the healthcare system in their county is overstretched, while 62% of those surveyed agree that waiting times to see a doctor are too long.

On perceived health inequalities, 59% globally say that many people cannot afford good healthcare in their country. This rises to more than eight in 10 in South Africa, Peru, Chile, Hungary, Brazil, Poland and Argentina.

Top health problems

Mental health
Mental health is ranked as a top health problem by 27% of respondents
Image: Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor 2020

Coronavirus, unsurprisingly, ranks as the top health concern for most respondents: 72%. This is almost double the 37% who select cancer as the top health problem.

“Mental health and stress come next as the most important health problems selected by the public, with Sweden, Chile and Australia most concerned about mental health,” Ipsos says.

Under-35s and women are most likely to highlight mental health as a prominent issue.

“Scores for many illnesses have dropped this year due to coronavirus, but mental health is consistent with 2018’s 27%,” Ipsos adds.

Stress comes fourth as the biggest health concern, with people in South Korea, Japan and Sweden most likely to single it out.

Obesity has fallen from second place in the ranking of health problems in 2018 to fifth in the 2020 survey.

Mixed outlook

On vaccinations against infectious diseases, almost two-thirds (64%) across 27 countries think these should be compulsory, while 15% disagree.

“Agreement is highest in Malaysia, Argentina and Saudi Arabia whereas those in Russia, the US, France and Poland are less convinced,” Ipsos says.

Public intent to vaccinate against COVID-19, if a vaccination were available, is at 73% across 15 countries.

Looking ahead, 1 in 3 people expect healthcare in their country to improve. Half as many – 16% – believe it will get worse.

“Countries with more established healthcare systems tend to be more pessimistic,” Ipsos says.