Countries face dynamic, multidimensional and interconnected crises. The pandemic, climate change, rising inequalities, food and energy insecurity, polarisation, misinformation and declining trends in youth mental health, are converging to cause enormous socio-political and economic consequences that are weakening democracies, corroding the social fabric of communities, and posing threats to social stability and national security. A Mental Wealth perspective argues that the extent to which nations can respond to these poly-crises depends on the quality of, and investments in, a critical national asset: brain capital. Brain capital encompasses a nation’s cognitive and emotional resources including (1) brain skills—cognitive capability, emotional intelligence and the ability to collaborate, be innovative and solve complex problems, (2) brain health which includes mental health, well-being and neurological disorders that critically impact the ability to deploy brain skills effectively, build and maintain positive relationships, and display resilience against challenges and uncertainties. Although brain skills and brain health are commonly examined at an individual level, brain capital represents a broader, collective concept and national asset that is a fundamental contributor to economic and social productivity.
The aim of this paper is to provide a systemic perspective on the interdependencies between brain capital (particularly mental health), economic and social well-being, and resilience. By transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries, the paper explores the drivers and potential strategies for enhancing systemic resilience. As global health researchers endeavour to improve health outcomes and foster more resilient societies, and business and economic policy audiences seek to promote productivity and economic prosperity, this paper advocates for a more interconnected approach. It urges global public health and business audiences to think beyond their usual disciplinary confines and engage in transdisciplinary efforts to achieve systemic change. In doing this, the paper navigates a critical tension arising from the need for both immediate action and systemic change, that is, improving the existing economic system to foster brain capital in the short term and simultaneously taking initiatives to achieve systemic resilience by challenging the dominant economic paradigm fundamentally. Rather than advocating for a singular approach, the paper embraces both agendas, striving for an inclusive, balanced and practical strategy to tackle this complex issue in the near term while also offering more radical suggestions to achieve systemic transformation over the longer term.
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