Brain Health

Helping people across the world achieve the best possible brain health by strengthening cognitive function, improving mental health, and effectively preventing and treating mental, neurological, and substance use disorders

Brain health—a term inclusive of positive mental health and the full range of mental, substance use, and neurological conditions—is a critical determinant of overall health. Regardless of age, income, or geography, brain health materially impacts every person’s life.

Brain health is broader than the absence of disease.1 It includes improving overall cognitive functioning, resilience, and the state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able contribute to his or her community.2

Brain conditions account for a large portion of the global disease burden—a challenge substantially exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. For example, there’s been a more than 25 percent increase in major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders compared to pre-COVID-19 worldwide.3 Brain health remains one of the least addressed, least resourced health topics.

The McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) addresses brain health challenges globally, such as social norms (including stigma), prevention, early detection, treatment effectiveness, integration of care, and workforce availability—as well as opportunities to further support positive mental health.

14%

of global disease burden4

and $2.5 trillion annual cost to the world economy related to brain conditions5

10–25

year reduction in life expectancy

in people with serious mental illnesses6

75%

of mental disorders

appear by the age of 247

Topics to explore

MHI collaborates with leading organizations across sectors to catalyze change in brain health and explore pressing questions, such as:

  • How can we empower employers to support employee mental health and well-being?
  • How can open-access data assets and insights foster collaboration to advance mental well-being?
  • How can we scale evidence-based approaches to promote optimal brain health across the lifespan?

Featured initiative

Employee Mental Health and Well-being

MHI's Employee Mental Health and Well-being Initiative facilitates collaboration, learning, and innovation across private, public, and social sectors to make a difference. We provide data, insights, and tools to enable employers to be a positive force in improving employee mental health and well-being in a way that drives change at scale and is good for employees, for business, and for broader communities.

Featured collaborations

Through our McKinsey Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare, which has integrated into MHI, we have been partnering with organizations to develop novel solutions to long-standing problems in brain health.

We have partnered with the Healthy Brains Global Initiative (HBGI) to develop a case for global collaboration around brain health. We continue to collaborate with HBGI to build publicly available datasets on brain health disease burdens and related interventions to help researchers, funders, advocates, and policy makers address this burden.

We worked closely with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to help develop and deliver a free, web-based, interactive digital curriculum to upskill educators in identifying and supporting youth exposed to traumatic stress. Initial pilots have shown success, and the curriculum is being scaled in the United States with potential opportunities to develop training for other global contexts as well.

We collaborated with RI International to reimagine and redesign the Crisis Resource Need Calculator. This web-based calculator estimates the demand, resourcing, and healthcare costs of behavioral health crisis services in the United States. The data from this calculator can be expanded and adapted to other global contexts based on local crisis response protocols and resources.

Featured Insights

Interactive - McKinsey Health Institute

Prioritizing brain health: Scaling what works to add years to life and life to years

– How many more years can be spent in optimal health if our society viewed mental and substance-use disorders as we do other conditions? The McKinsey Health Institute and the Healthy Brains Global Initiative collaboration sought to answer this question through a series of interactives.
Article - McKinsey Health Institute

Present company included: Prioritizing mental health and well-being for all

– A McKinsey Health Institute survey across 15 countries highlights how employers can make mental health a reality, especially for young workers.
Podcast - McKinsey Health Institute

Beyond burnout: What helps—and what doesn’t

– Despite leaders’ best efforts, worldwide burnout persists. New research reveals why—and how to help employees begin to thrive again.
Interview - McKinsey Health Institute

Leading with compassion: Prioritizing workplace mental health

– Mental-health advocate Poppy Jaman identifies strategies companies could employ to improve the health and well-being of their workforces.
Interview - McKinsey Health Institute

Toxic workplace behavior and employee burnout: Fix one, fix both

Jerks at Work author Tessa West shares research and insights about the damaging effect of toxic behavior in the workplace and offers strategies for effectively coping with it.
Article - McKinsey Health Institute

Heat waves, the war in Ukraine, and stigma: Gen Z’s perspectives on mental health

– A new McKinsey Health Institute survey finds that Gen Z may have higher levels of perceived stigma compared with other generations, but they may be more accepting of people with mental illnesses.
Interview - McKinsey Health Institute

‘Be brave, not perfect,’ says mental health advocate Poppy Jaman

– Poppy Jaman, CEO of the MindForward Alliance, shares her journey with mental health challenges and disorders, and discusses the importance of overcoming stigma and providing support in the workplace.
Interview - McKinsey Health Institute

‘When it comes to mental health, all countries are developing countries’

– Psychiatrist and Harvard professor Shekhar Saxena defines human health holistically and thinks creatively about how to expand access to mental-health services around the world.
Interactive - McKinsey Health Institute

Moving the needle on burnout: What does the data say?

– The interactive illustrates the opportunity for employers to address key workplace factors (toxic workplace behavior, inclusivity, supportive growth environment, and sustainable work) and the potential impact on key outcomes (work engagement, job satisfaction, burnout symptoms, and intent to leave).
Article - McKinsey Health Institute

Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem?

– Employers have invested unprecedented resources in employee mental health and well-being. With burnout at all-time highs, leaders wonder if they can make a difference. Our research suggests they can.

1. Kalpana Srivastava, “Positive mental health and its relationship with resilience,” National Library of Medicine, July 2011
2. “Mental health: strengthening our response,” World Health Organization, Mar 30, 2018
3. “Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” The Lancet, Elsevier, Oct 8, 2021
4. “Global burden of disease database 2019,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, The Lancet, Oct 17, 2020
5. Seth Mnookin, et al, “Out of the shadows: making mental health a global development priority,” World Bank Group, World Health Organization, Oct 8, 2015
6. “Premature death among people with severe mental disorders,” World Health Organization, Nov 18, 2015
7. Ronald C Kessler, et al, “Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication,” National Library of Medicine, Jun 2005

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