Kiwi millennials, women hit hardest by pandemic mental health crisis

Psychiatric claims have more than tripled from before the pandemic

Kiwi millennials, women hit hardest by pandemic mental health crisis

Diversity & Inclusion

By Gabriel Olano

More Kiwis are reaching out for mental health support than ever before, with women and millennials most impacted by the pandemic, as shown by claims data from nib New Zealand.

According to nib CEO Rob Hennin, psychiatric claims increased by 225% between January 2019 and December 2021. 

“Living through the pandemic has been an experience like none other,” Hennin said. “The impact of COVID-19 and all that comes with it – including extended periods of time isolated from families, colleagues and friends – has had a real impact on the health and wellbeing of our community, which is reflected in our claims experience.”

Women were overrepresented among claimants, making 67% of all psychiatric claims and exceeding claims made by men in almost every demographic. Millennials were also majorly affected by the mental health crisis, representing 61% of mental health claims during the period.

“It’s why we made it our priority to increase our mental health cover last year, offering our members support from registered psychologists and psychiatrists with no waiting periods, excess or exclusions for pre-existing conditions,” Hennin said.

Dr Angela Lim, founder and CEO of digital mental health platform Clearhead, said the platform experienced increased demand for its services, with over half of its platform users being female. Loneliness and a lack of purpose were the two leading causes of psychological distress among their users, and this peaked during COVID-19 lockdown periods.

“We delivered four times the amount of therapy sessions in 2021 compared to the previous year and had eight times more Kiwis using our self-help mental health services,” Lim said. “Many of the women who said they were struggling, were also in the millennial age bracket, and often expressed they were finding it difficult to shoulder the increased burden of family obligations, alongside rising pressures at work due to the high levels of change and uncertainty.”

To address the increasing need for mental health support, nib’s charitable entity, nib foundation, has partnered with Clearhead to develop a digital tool via their online platform to help young adults find their purpose in life.

The tool, which will be released later this year, comes at the right time, Lim said.

“Now as restrictions are being removed, many users have expressed feelings of “re-entry” anxiety when facing social situations,” Lim said. “As we navigate this post-pandemic period, our focus is on how connections are a way of improving mental wellbeing, developing a sense of meaning in your life and cultivating support structures that helps us build both individual and societal resilience. Through the use of our platform, we hope to see people transition back into a world that is opening up with more confidence and security.”

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