The economic and societal effects of COVID-19 on our brains
The economic and societal effects of COVID-19 on our brains

The economic and societal effects of COVID-19 on our brains

Brain capital conceptualizes brain health (e.g., lack of mental illness and neurodegenerative illness) and brain skills (e.g., education) as crucial to the knowledge economy. This concept is based on the assumption that our brains are our greatest asset and provide a framework for defining brain problems, quantifying them and tracking them. Brain capital can be driven into policies and investments

COVID-19 has had enormous negative effects on individual, societal and worldwide brain capital. We are in the early stages of understanding the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain. But what we do know is alarming. While COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, long-COVID-19 is increasingly being detected as a neuropsychiatric disorder. In other words, long-COVID-19 is all about the brain. An estimated 22-32 percent of patients recovering from COVID-19 experience brain fog and cognitive challenges as part of their experience with long-term COVID-19. Other research suggests that one third of COVID-19 sufferers want a new one incipient or recurrent psychiatric problem (often depression or anxiety) in the following year. In addition, it is not only people with severe COVID-19 who are affected. Studies have found that humans across all stages of COVID-19including those who were and were not hospitalized, have experienced challenges with attention, memory, and executive function. From a clinical perspective, we know that several factors can lead to post-COVID-19 cognitive problems and mental disorders, including pre-existing diseases, damage from the virus itself, neuroinflammation, and vascular damage. However, further research is needed to understand the full mechanisms and implications of COVID-19 on the brain.

This decreases in brain healthand thus of brain capitalfrom COVID-19 has led to and will continue to lead to negative economic and societal consequences. With colleagues in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Unit for New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC)we have shownvia our Neuroscience-inspired policy initiativethat brain capital drives economic empowerment, brain performance, social resilience, and emotional connection. Brain capital is the foundations economic growth and prosperity. It postulates that our brains are our greatest assets and if we are strategic invest in brain capitalthe gain is our country’s future, economy, innovation, yesbeing, and even democratic strength.

COVID-19 has further exacerbated a pre-existing mental health crisis worldwide, further damaging brain capital. According to a recent scientific briefing from the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression in the first year of COVID-19 increased by 25 percent. Several factors, including social isolation, loneliness, grief, financial worries, and more, converged during COVID-19 to cause unprecedented stress and mental challenges, revealing existing health inequalities. In addition, young people have been disproportionately affected. Adolescent mental health problems were on the rise long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 reinforced and sustained these challenges. This prompted US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to issue one surgeon general advice on the urgent need to address the country’s mental health crisis for young people. Counseling is reserved for significant public health challenges and has previously included counseling on opiates and smoking. The advice of the latest surgeon general calls for increased investment and immediate responses to prevent young people’s mental health from becoming another pandemic.

We have an urgent need for innovation to address the effects of COVID-19 on brain capital.

Promotion and investment in young people’s brain capital is crucial to building a robust future. This includes not only addressing the mental health of young people, but also working to promote the education and training of young people who have suffered greatly during the COVID-19 era. According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization, 65 percent of young people reported having learned less since the beginning of the pandemic. other than that 38 percent of young people reported to be uncertain about their future career opportunities. If the education and training of young people is left unaddressed, this will perpetuate the mental health crisis and cause negative effects on brain capital in the years to come. In fact, it will lead to “a lost generation”From COVID-19-related training disorders that may result in this generation losing weight $ 17 trillion in lifetime pay and affect the future US economy.

Addressing and rethinking labor force participation in the United States in the wake of COVID-19 is also essential for promoting brain capital. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily resign their jobs in 2021, spurred on by COVID-19warning of Great Resignation. Among workers who quit their jobs in 2021, the majority reported low pay, no opportunities for advancement and the feeling of disrespect as the main reasons to leave. These factors were particularly marked by the low-income workforce. We need to redesign and reformulate labor force participation. There is an urgent need for jobs that require brain and socio-emotional skills (eg the “brain skills component” of brain capital), but to does not necessarily require a university degree. This would be an important means of involving and ultimately converting the low-skilled, low-income workforce to the labor markets of the future and to better quality jobs—strengthening of individual and collective brain capital. Such initiatives are particularly promising regions with high incidences of deep desperation and premature death and can help address the lack of hope and promote wellbeing and increased longevity. We must invest in brains to combat America’s despair crisis.

We have an urgent need for innovation to address the effects of COVID-19 on brain capital. These innovations will span clinical care, neuroscience research, young people’s mental health, education, workforce participation, and more. To get over the economic consequences of COVID-19, we must prioritize and invest in the brain with a coordinated approach across public sectors, civil society and industry. In fact, brain capital is the way to recovery and is needed to build a more resilient future.

*Note: This article is adapted from a presentation by Eric Lenze, professor and future president of psychiatry at Washington University of St. Louis, to the U.S. Congressional Neuroscience Caucus on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

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