There has been 25% increase in mental health issues since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an expert who shared the findings of a recent report on the topic at WISH 2022, which concluded on Thursday.
“Mental health is one of top 10 burdens of diseases globally, with a 25% increase since the pandemic, and sport offers a great toolbox to tackle the mental health crisis. Our report brings together evidence that sport is as effective as pharmacological methods in addressing anxiety and stress, and at a lower cost,” said Kaitlin Simpson, University of Edinburgh, UK; coach, Special Olympics, who contributed to the report commissioned by World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).
Simpson was speaking at a panel discussion on the topic of “Sport for Mental Health: A Global Strengths-based System.” Other panelists included Sir Mo Farah, British athlete; Sheikha Intisar al-Sabah, founder of Intisar Foundation; Dr Kamran Abassi, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal and Ollie Dudfield, associate director Olympism 365, International Olympic Committee. The session was moderated by BBC journalist, Stephen Sackur.
Sheikha al-Sabah commented on the challenges within the Islamic world where girls and women aged 12 and older are less likely to engage in sports due to cultural reasons. She also underscored the role of physical activity in dealing with psychological trauma and ridding the body of excess adrenaline and cortisol from trauma.
“We need to broaden the conversation on the wealth of evidence on the benefits of exercise and movement. Sport itself is less researched than exercise more broadly. And although there is a lot of evidence about the physical and mental health benefits of sport, my assessment would be that it’s still an emerging field of science, which needs to be more researched,” Dr Abassi, explained.
“We need a radical change in society – a society that focuses on outcomes relating to health and well-being, people and planet. Our focus at the moment is where we are going wrong as a global society. We need to make a better world for ourselves and we need to advocate for it,” he added.