By Nikolaj Skydsgaard
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Social distancing and worries over COVID-19 have caused a surge in Danes seeking professional help to ease anxiety and depression they developed during the pandemic, the chief executive of Scandinavia's biggest insurer, Tryg, said on Friday.
Denmark is generally known for topping the charts of the world's happiest countries, with low crime rates and a generous welfare system, albeit underpinned by some of the highest tax rates in the world.
But extended periods of lockdown and isolation during the pandemic seems to have taken its toll on mental well-being.
"Corona is starting to seriously tax Danes' mental health," Tryg CEO Morten Hübbe told Reuters after the company published first-quarter results.
Tryg, which means "safe" in Danish, saw the number of claims for mental illnesses rise in the first quarter of this year, continuing a worrying trend from last year.
Anxiety claims had risen by 20% in the second half of 2020 and depression claims rose by nearly 15% in the same period, the company said. A similar trend had been registered in Tryg's Norwegian business.
"It is becoming clearer that it's not without challenges for our mental health that we lack social interaction, and are more worried because of corona," Hübbe said.
Tryg's data also showed the average length of treatments had lengthened during the pandemic, meaning Danes needed more sessions before recovering.
On the bright side, as COVID-19 inoculations proceed and the weather improves, Danes can look forward to sprucing up their social life soon. The government announced on Friday it would speed up its re-opening after seeing the epidemic stabilise in recent weeks.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, editing by Larry King)