After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, results from a European survey reveal that more than half of Europeans rate their physical health as good or very good – with a quarter of respondents reducing their alcohol and drug consumption and one in five saying they eat a healthier diet. Although 45% of Europeans rate their mental health as good or very good, 23% of the youngest (18-29 years old) say they have needed psychological help during the pandemic.
These are just some of the major findings from the “Merck Survey: Europeans’ perception of health two years after the start of Covid 19”; a survey of 6,000 people aged 18 to 65 from ten countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Switzerland) that the science and technology company Merck carried out with the technical support of GAD3.
“This pandemic has triggered the biggest health, social and economic crisis in almost a century and – from the perspective of having overcome the most critical months of it – in Merck we wanted to know its impact on the health and lifestyle of Europeans,” says Marieta Jiménez, Senior Vice President of Merck Healthcare in Europe. “We believe that only by getting closer and asking people what they feel, think and need can we provide answers to the different health challenges. A healthy society is the basis for building a stronger, safer and more prosperous society,” she adds.
The survey shows that Europeans (especially Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese) consider that the pandemic has helped them to talk openly in their personal and professional environment about their physical and mental health. Inaddition, one in three Europeans say that it has improved family coexistence and feelings of solidarity (34% and 33% respectively). Family co-existence was reported as a particular benefit by more Spaniards ad Czechs than in any other European country surveyed (42% and 45% respectively).
In contrast, the survey emphasizes the weight of emotional problems arising from the pandemic. The results show that 26% of all Europeans have developed a fear of physical contact with other people and 23% of young people surveyed have needed psychological help. Stress and anxiety, followed by fear and uncertainty, are the feelings that have affected more than a third of Europeans (38% and 33%, respectively).
When compared to the European average, stress and anxiety have affected countries such as Spain, Poland and Portugal more, while fear and uncertainty have particularly affected Spain, Italy and Portugal. Germany, Spain, the UK and Poland are the countries most affected by loneliness.
New times, new habits
The pandemic has also boosted the use of new health technologies. The Merck survey concludes that seven out of ten Europeans say they are comfortable or increasingly comfortable with telemedicine. Although most Europeans continue to prefer face-to-face consultations after the health crisis, people from Portugal, France and Italy reported a current preference for telemedicine vs. face-to-face consultations.
The survey further reveals that almost a quarter (24%) of Europeans say they have reduced their alcohol and drug consumption and one in five say they now eat a healthier diet.
Furthermore, only one in ten Europeans have postponed their plans to build or grow a family after the pandemic. People from the Czech Republic and Italy have postponed their intention to have children the most after the pandemic (14% and 15% respectively).
High recognition for health professionals
The study also probes opinions about the work of different health and science professionals during the pandemic. All countries recognize the good work of health personnel. In fact, 70% of Europeans rate the work of health workers and researchers as good or very good. Even so, it is worth noting that the performance of pharmacists during the pandemic was the most highly rated in all countries (compared to doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers) and they were the most highly rated in countries such as Spain and the Czech Republic.
When asked about what should be improved in the health system, 6 out of 10 European countries surveyed agree on the need to invest more in preventive medicine and public health, followed by primary care and mental health. Germans prefer researching new medicines over all other areas, while the British attach greater importance to mental health and the Poles call for greater primary care along with the Spanish.
Which diseases do Europeans fear the most?
In addition, the “Merck Survey: Europeans’ perception of health two years after the start of Covid 19” also points out that 75% of Europeans think that the health crisis has affected the normal course of cancer treatments. Cancer is the most feared disease in the wake of the pandemic, followed by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and cardiovascular diseases.
“We are living unprecedented times and as a curious company we need to prioritize more than ever the value of science and professionals working in the service of health,” emphasizes François Feig, Senior Vice President Mid Europe Healthcare at Merck. “This ambitious survey sheds light on the feelings of Europeans about their health after two years of living with Covid and I believe that this information will allow all of us who put our efforts in the service of people’s health and well-being to better understand their needs.”