Health and Healthcare Systems

These are the world’s top health concerns in 2022

health concerns

20% see the quality of healthcare in their countries getting worse. Image: Photo by Accuray on Unsplash

Stephen Hall
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare

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  • COVID-19 is still the primary health concern worldwide, according to the Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor.
  • Mental health is now a higher health concern than cancer for the first time.
  • The majority of people think their country's healthcare system is overstretched, and aren’t optimistic about the future, Ipsos finds.
  • But there are actions governments can take to improve healthcare systems and prepare them for future crises.

While the pandemic shone a spotlight on the heroic work of healthcare workers, it also highlighted the frailty of many healthcare systems around the world. Now, three out of five people globally think their country’s healthcare system is overstretched, according to a new Ipsos survey, which looked at the top health concerns of around 23,500 adults across 34 countries.

The annual Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor found that COVID-19 remains the biggest health problem facing people around the world. However, just 47% of people ranked it top, down from 70% in 2021.

Mental health concerns rising post-pandemic

COVID-19 has also created other health concerns.

The pandemic led to interruptions to essential mental health services “just as they were needed most”, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out. “World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes – during the pandemic and beyond,” he added.

Services for “mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services”, according to members of the World Health Organization (WHO). Many countries also reported “major disruptions in life-saving services for mental health, including for suicide prevention”, according to the WHO.

This sense of disruption is backed up by the Ipsos study, with 36% of respondents ranking it as a top concern, up from 31% a year earlier.

This means mental health ranks as a higher health concern than cancer (34%) for the first time in these annual Ipsos reports.

Stress is also named by 26% of people as a top health concern, ahead of obesity (22%), as the chart below shows.

A bar chart showing what people think the biggest health problems that are facing people in your country today.
COVID-19 and mental health are the world’s top health concerns, Ipsos says. Image: Ipsos.

Healthcare system concerns

With overstretched health facilities at the forefront of people’s minds, just 50% of Ipsos respondents rated their countries’ healthcare services as good, while 19% saw them as poor or very poor.

A bar chart showing how people would rate the quality of healthcare that you and your family have access to in your country.
Globally, half of people rated their country’s healthcare systems as good, according to Ipsos. Image: Ipsos.

“To restore services to pre-pandemic levels and catch up on care, we need to understand and act on what we have learned, including by investing in the health workforce, increasing funding for future health infrastructure, and maintaining the innovative forms of service delivery that proved useful in reaching out to key groups affected by the pandemic,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said earlier this year.

These desires are echoed by the Ipsos survey participants, who see a lack of staff along with access to treatment and waiting times as the primary healthcare concerns following the pandemic.

A bar chart showing responses to the biggest problems facing the healthcare system in your country.
Healthcare systems are suffering from a lack of staff and longer waiting times. Image: Ipsos.

Health budgets ‘must not be cut’

Will things improve? Only a third of the Ipsos study participants think so, while 20% see the quality of healthcare in their countries getting worse.

Health budgets are under pressure because of inflation and political pressures, but the WHO’s Hans Kluge and Professor Mario Monti, Head of the Pan-European Commission on Health & Sustainable Development and former Prime Minister of Italy, say spending on healthcare must not be cut.

Instead they list a number of actions governments can take to improve healthcare systems and prepare them for future crises, including:

  • Reallocation of development assistance for health towards global functions, such as R&D into medicines and vaccines.
  • Differentiating health spending that is routine from that which is “frontier-shifting” – the latter can lead to progress that may delay or prevent the onset of disease, rather than just offer short-term treatment.
  • Better disclosure and reporting standards to increase transparency in how governments identify and respond to threats such as pandemics.

Countries and governments also need to “scale-up mental health help for their citizens and focus on building the right infrastructure to do so,” says Shyam Bishen, Head of Health & Healthcare at the World Economic Forum.

“From the private sector perspective, employers must contribute and focus on supporting the mental health of employees,” he says. “The Forum is co-leading a workplace mental health initiative to promote WHO mental health guidelines in the workplace.”


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