The turbulent and erratic waters of 2022 have been a reality check for many of us. With the soaring costs of healthcare, employee burnout and labor shortages, layoffs, losses, and ongoing health and wellbeing concerns, employers and employees alike want – and need – more. As we close the year, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts – or, hopes, frankly – regarding behavioral health trends that will emerge in 2023:
- MENTAL HEALTH
Mental health will continue to be a top concern across America, in particular within the American workforce: Depression and anxiety rates among U.S. adults increased by nearly four times during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year before, and death by overdoses increased by nearly 30% during the same period. As of August 2022, half of employers (43%) surveyed by the Business Group on Health view long-term mental health as the leading health related impact of the pandemic, with 39% of employers anticipating increases. In 2023, we’ll see employers expand mental health networks, with a focus on evidence-based programs for managing stress, anxiety, and substance use. As opioid settlements get codified into actionable budgets in different states, we will also see momentum in the substance use treatment space. This will start with established treatments, and move increasingly toward novel, digital-supported modalities.
- HEALTH+WELLNESS APPS BACKED BY MORE SCIENCE, LESS ‘CELEBRITY’
Metrics and clinical efficacy to assess outcomes will set digital health solutions apart: Currently, there are more than 40,000 health and wellness apps available in the App Store; and, for those in the mental health category, very little published clinical research exists. As we enter 2023, metrics and efficacy will be a key differentiator of which digital therapeutics improve clinical outcomes. We know from our randomized trial of individuals with generalized anxiety disorder that those who used Sharecare’s digital therapeutic Unwinding Anxiety for two months reported benefits, including a 67% reduction in anxiety. I predict these evidence-based digital tools will become more mainstream for managing stress, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and addiction.
- WHOLE PERSON CARE
Whole person care approaches that take into account social determinants of health will become more prevalent in the treatment of mental health conditions: In 2023, more employers will seek employee health and well-being experiences that take into account all facets of a patients’ health journey, while reducing healthcare costs. The phrase “less is more” will be prominent, and as companies look to construct their digital front door for health, we’ll see the industry become more consolidated and benefits landscapes less fragmented. Additionally, 2023 will bring a continued focus on sustainability and resilience as workplace benefits expand to a growing set of wellness options such as behavioral and mental health support, financial planning, child and elder care, chronic disease management, and more.
As a neuroscientist, addiction psychiatrist, and chief medical officer, I along with my colleagues at Sharecare are committed to making marked progress to address our country’s mental health crisis in the next year, and we are optimistic about the industry’s collective efforts to improve outcomes for so many.