Kirsty Graham / April 18, 2023
Launched in January, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer provided a stark view of the current global context—one in which economic, social and geopolitical forces are deepening anxiety, distrust and polarization around the world. In a year meant to return us to a new “normal,” we have instead experienced one crisis after the next: protracted war in the Ukraine, intensifying climate threats, rising global food insecurity and breakneck inflation, among others. It is against this tense backdrop that much of the world’s population currently finds itself mired in an acute cost-of-living crisis.
It should come as no surprise that the macroeconomic landscape is profoundly impacting health realities globally. Conducted across 13 markets last month, our Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health finds that economic pressure is a growing threat to people’s ability to care for themselves. Around the world, cost has emerged as the greatest barrier to people taking better care of their health—with income inequality yielding significantly divergent health outcomes. Our key findings include the following:
It is critical that businesses both in healthcare and beyond act quickly and with conviction to stem the rising tide of inequality and distrust. There are meaningful opportunities to drive change at a time when people fundamentally aspire to good health and are thinking about their health in bolder, more expansive terms than ever before. According to this new data, health is about so much more than just the physical: two-thirds of those we surveyed consider their physical, mental and social health as well as community livability when evaluating what it means to be healthy. (In contrast, only 1% of respondents define being healthy as purely physical.) Perhaps most striking, out of all four dimensions of health, the highest number of respondents (91%) include mental health in their definition of being healthy. This broad perspective affords a host of new opportunities to engage—especially with young people, who increasingly expect an intersectional approach from the companies and institutions in their lives.
Some of our findings about trust and information offer potential paths forward as well. On one hand, people increasingly trust those closest to them to deliver accurate health information—whether the individuals delivering care (“my doctor,” nurses and pharmacists) or friends and family. Alongside this, public trust in the media’s healthcare reporting has declined 7 pts since 2019; and still more alarming, 44% of people ages 18-34 believe the average person who has done their own research is “just as informed and knowledgeable on most health matters” as a doctor. But another perspective on this statistic is that people are eager to take their health into their own hands: they feel empowered to educate themselves and are motivated to seek out reliable information and decide what to do with it. Healthcare providers in particular must look for new ways to leverage this dispersion in authority and connect with people along their journeys.
To that end, we encourage key stakeholders work to improve trust in health, as follows:
The global health ecosystem is at a watershed moment, with seismic macro forces propelling unprecedented systemic change around the world. Inequality, distrust and polarization have collided to cause a widespread collapse in people’s hope for the future—and swift intervention is needed to begin rebuilding trust in the institutions that have failed them. Our research suggests that there are numerous opportunities to leverage disruption and changing behaviors throughout the system to drive meaningful change, both at an institutional and interpersonal level. Businesses should play a leading role in these efforts—by investing in their employees’ well-being, making health core to strategic decision-making, exploring ways to leverage individuals’ growing trust in those closest to them and tackling social inequities, in partnership with other institutions.
Kirsty Graham is Global President, Practices & Sectors and Global Chair, Health.
1 Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, the UK and the US.