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Our longevity is influenced by many factors.  We know from research over many years that a country’s mental well-being is one of the key pillars of longevity. Indeed, the longest-living communities generally display more positive mental wellness attributes. Sapien Labs has just issued its annual report on The Mental State of the World.  This report is a must-read for anyone with an interest in mental health and longevity.

Why is the world’s mental health getting worse?

As an ardent reader of mental health trends, it is clear that the world is facing a massive crisis of the mind.  And despite growing awareness of the problem, it seems to me we still are not getting a grip on the issue.

The findings of a report issued by  Sapien Labs, on the Mental State of the World Report, in March 2024, are worth noting.  What stands out for me is that it shows how younger age of first smartphone ownership and ultra-processed food consumption are two major contributors to our mental health challenges.

Diminished mental well-being is the new normal

Tara Thiagarajan, PhD. Founder & Chief Scientist and Jennifer Newson, PhD. Lead Scientist, Cognitive & Mental Health at Sapien Labs say the effects of diminished global mental wellbeing have become a new normal.

The Sapien Lab report reflects an individual’s sense of how their inner state impacts their ability to function within their life context.

Indeed, “many of the shifts that the pandemic brought about persist, from an increase in remote work to increased use of single use plastics, could all have a contributing effect that must be studied and understood.”

The report shows, “as mental wellbeing has remained largely static across the world since 2021, so too have the rankings of countries. At the top of the rankings are many Latin American and African countries while much of the core Anglosphere ranks in the bottom quartile.

With national wealth indicators such as per capita GDP negatively correlated with average mental wellbeing scores (see Sapien’s 2021 report),  the authors say they have been able to make  substantial progress in our understanding of why this is so.”

Sapien Labs report shows if you’re younger and or richer you may be harder hit with mental health challenges

Two key findings show that younger age of first smartphone ownership and ultra-processed food consumption are two major contributors to our mental health challenges.

“In wealthier countries, the age of first smartphone ownership is much younger and ultra-processed food consumption much higher. Other contributing factors are the relatively diminished family relationships in wealthier countries that are highlighted in our 2022 annual report.”

This should be cause for great concern. Wealthier communities have significantly higher access to good information and therefore are able to understand the outcome of unhealthy habits more readily than those with less access to information.  They also have access to better food. Yet despite this, we are seeing wealthier people more compromised.

The root causes of diminished mental wellbeing globally

From 2023 Sapien Labs also added four new languages – Russian, (Simplified) Chinese, Italian and Hebrew – to bring the total number of languages to 13.

They state, “While data acquisition did not extend into Russia and China, this extended coverage to the Russian speaking populations of the former Soviet Republics and the Chinese diaspora of South East Asia. This year also marks a year where the team extended the validation of the MHQ and Global Mind data in various ways.”

The researchers continue to expand their global footprint. In sharing their report they welcome contributions to this expansion and to furthering an understanding of the root causes of our diminished mental wellbeing so that we can all learn and develop informed strategies to reverse the decline.

The bottom line

In summary, the Sapien Labs report presents a worrying picture of our post-pandemic prospects.  It confirms we are still a long way off to understanding how to improve collective mental wellbeing.

Despite education, awareness and knowledge  many communities are not able to create better health outcomes.  The information also shows the human ability – or in many cases – the human’s inability,  to navigate the normal stresses of life and to function in a productive way.  The authors concur that we collectively need to ensure that we can improve the mental state of the world.

” The challenge we have ahead of us is to understand the drivers of our collective mental well-being, such that we can align our ambitions and goals with the functional capacity and genuine prosperity of human beings.”

Post Note

I have cherry picked key points from the Sapien Labs research.  Please download the full report for a more complete understanding. The reference is below.


Sapien Labs is based in Washington DC area, USA.  It is a 501(c) (3) not for profit organization with a mission to understand and enable the human mind.

You can download the full Sapien Labs report here:


Mental State of the World 2023



Gisèle Wertheim Aymes

Gisèle Wertheim Aymes

Gisèle is the owner of the Longevity brand. She is a seasoned media professional and autodidactic. Her goal? Sharing the joy with others of living in good health, while living beyond 100, You can follow her @giselewaymes on Twitter and Instagram or read her Linked-In profile for full bio details.


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