How can every person improve their brain health and mental resilience?
Brain and mental well-being are critical to the health and happiness of the 7.5 billion people who inhabit our planet. The way we feel, solve problems, and interact with one another all depend on the health of our brains. Unfortunately, brain disorders that compromise our mental and cognitive function are strikingly common, affecting 10 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of children and adolescents. These mental, neurological, and substance-use disorders can occur at any stage of life, from early childhood to adulthood, and are increasingly common. Treatment is inadequate or nonexistent in many parts of the world, especially in low-income countries.
The most common mental disorder—depression—is the third leading cause of disease burden worldwide and a major contributor to suicide, which took the lives of 800,000 people in 2015 alone. Degenerative neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease affect sufferers’ learning, memory, and perception and put an emotional and financial strain on their caregivers. Substance-use disorders affect over 15 million people worldwide, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.
The diminished productivity created by brain disorders amounts to more than 10 billion lost days of work globally per year, or about US $1 trillion in lost economic output—not including the cost of treatment. Further, brain disorders can substantially affect physical health. They are linked to unhealthy behaviors like poor diet and lack of exercise, which can lead to chronic diseases that are expensive to treat and sometimes fatal.
Great opportunity exists to substantially improve brain health and reduce mental, neurological, and substance-use disorders. Technology can provide a pathway for introducing faster and more accurate diagnoses and more effective, accessible, and scalable treatments. Solutions that empower people to improve their overall brain wellness—integral to preventing brain disorders, enhancing brain functionality, and enabling people to live happy and productive lives—are beginning to appear, and there is space for many more. Shifting the conversation from treating brain diseases to improving well-being may begin to dissolve the cultural stigma that makes it difficult for many to seek help.
The Solve community aims to unearth and support innovative solutions to improve brain health and fitness for all. To do so, the Solve community can propose scalable technology solutions that:
- Empower people anywhere in the world to improve their overall brain health and fitness, mental well-being, and mental resilience
- Enable earlier and more accurate diagnosis of problems
- Increase access to and efficacy of treatments
- Help build a positive, stigma-free culture in which all people feel empowered to proactively seek better brain health and mental fitness
The Arts and Culture Mentorship Prize Curated by Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist
Gardens, writing, painting, music, theater—the arts and culture provide people with an outlet for their own feelings and identity, and with perspective on the feelings and identity of others. The Yo-Yo Ma mentorship prize will be awarded to a Solver who proposes a non-medical intervention that uses the arts and culture to reduce stress and enhance brain fitness and resiliency among resource-limited populations.