Brain Capital conceptualizes brain health (e.g., the lack of mental illness and neurodegenerative disease) and brain skills (e.g., education) as essential to the knowledge economy. This concept is based on the assumption that our brains are our greatest asset and provides a framework to define brain issues, quantify them, and track 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 infancy stages of understanding COVID-19’s short- and long-term effects on the brain. However, what we do know is alarming. While COVID-19 is mainly a respiratory illness, long-COVID-19 is increasingly being revealed as a neuropsychiatric disorder. In other words, long-COVID-19 is all about the brain. An estimated 22-32 percent of patients who recover from COVID-19 experience brain fog and cognitive challenges as part of their experience of long COVID-19. Other research suggests that one-third of COVID-19 sufferers will have a new onset or recurrent psychiatric problem (often depression or anxiety) in the ensuing year. Additionally, it is not just people with severe COVID-19 who are affected. Studies have found that people across all stages of COVID-19, including those who were and were not hospitalized, have experienced challenges with attention, memory, and executive functioning. From a clinical perspective, we know that several factors can lead to post-COVID-19 cognitive problems and mental disorders, including pre-existing illnesses, 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 decline in brain health—and thus of Brain Capital—from COVID-19 has led to and will continue to lead to negative economic and societal implications. With colleagues at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) New Approaches to Economic Challenges Unit (NAEC), we have shown—via our Neuroscience-inspired Policy Initiative—that Brain Capital drives economic empowerment, brain performance, social resilience, and emotional connection. Brain Capital is the underpinnings of economic growth and prosperity. It postulates that our brains are our greatest assets, and if we strategically invest in Brain Capital, the payoff is our country’s future, economy, innovation, well–being, and even democratic strength.
COVID-19 has additionally amplified a pre-existing mental health crisis across the world further harming Brain Capital. According to a recent scientific brief by the World Health Organization, in the first year of COVID-19, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent. Multiple factors, including social isolation, loneliness, grief, financial worries, and more, converged during COVID-19 to cause unprecedented stress and mental health challenges and revealed existing health inequities. Further, youth have been disproportionately affected. Youth mental health issues were increasing well before the pandemic, but COVID-19 magnified and perpetuated these challenges. This led the United States Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, to issue a surgeon general advisory on the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges and have previously included advisories on opiates and smoking. The recent surgeon general’s advisory calls for increased investment and immediate responses to prevent youth mental health from becoming a second pandemic.
We urgently need innovation to address COVID-19’s effects on Brain Capital.
Promoting and investing in youth Brain Capital is critical to building a resilient future. This includes not only addressing youth mental health, but also working to promote education and training of young people, which has suffered greatly during the COVID-19 era. According to a recent report by the International Labour Organization, 65 percent of young people reported having learned less since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, 38 percent of young people reported being uncertain of their future career prospects. If the education and training of young people are left unaddressed, this will perpetuate the mental health crisis and cause negative effects on Brain Capital for years to come. Indeed, it will lead to “a generation lost” from COVID-19 related educational disruptions, which could result in this generation losing $17 trillion in lifetime wages and impacting the future United States economy.
Article From: Brookings
Author: Erin Smith, Carol Graham, Eric Lenze, William Hynes, and Harris A. Eyre