More than 70% percent of South Africans say stress has impacted their life multiple times in the past year to the point that they could not cope with things, while 50% say they have felt stressed to the point that they could not go to work.
This is according to the Ipsos World Mental Health Day survey released on Tuesday.
Drawing on three years of trended data, the survey delves into the evolving perceptions of people regarding their mental health, the influential factors affecting their mental well-being, and places these findings in the context of the wider health-care landscape.
Key findings include that 77% of South Africans think their mental health is as important as their physical health but just 32% say mental and physical health are treated equally by the health-care system.
“South Africa ranks among the leading nations with a relatively strong belief in the prioritisation of mental health (17%) over physical health (5%). However, the prevailing sentiment reveals a collective recognition of the equal importance of both mental and physical health, with 77% endorsing their parity,” Ipsos said.
When questioning online South Africans about the most pressing health challenges confronting the nation, an enduring and escalating concern revolved around mental health and stress, as indicated by a substantial 23-percentage-point increase from 2018 to 2023 for mental health as the biggest health concern.
Despite South Africans showcasing remarkable resilience amid the ongoing challenges in this era of polycrisis, extreme stress continues to be a common experience, according to the survey.
Notably, half of South Africans reported stress levels so overwhelming that they were temporarily unable to work (compared to a global country average of 39%). Furthermore, 71% of South Africans have encountered stress levels that made them feel incapable of coping with life's demands.
Looking at the global findings, nearly four in every five (78%) people across 31 countries believe that their mental health is equally as important as their physical health. This sentiment is highest in Latin America, with Argentina (88%), Colombia (87%) and Peru (also 87%) emerging as the top three countries where this belief is most prevalent. India witnessed a substantial shift in the perception of mental and physical health as being equally important from the previous year, experiencing a remarkable 17-percentage-point surge from 2022 (49%) to 2023 (66%). In nations such as Turkey (22%), Brazil (19%), and Thailand (18%), mental health holds greater importance than physical health.