Beyond GDP: Mental wealth readies societies for mega-threats

18 January 2024
New system to model the social, economic, and health system drivers of mental health
World-leading experts from industry, science, health, technology, and economics gathered in Davos, Switzerland, this week to discuss how nations can overcome the global challenges to true prosperity including war and climate change.

The forum ‘Building the Mental Wealth of Nations’ featured seven renowned panellists including economist Nouriel Roubini, UNICEF global mental health lead Zeinab Hijazi, and human rights advocate Sharan Burrow.

The forum was a brainchild of the Mental Wealth Initiative, a transdisciplinary group from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and Business School. It aims to move beyond GDP and recognise the value of human capital, mental capital, and wellbeing in measuring a nation’s productivity and prosperity.

“The world is facing the perfect storm of wars, climate change, inflation, rising social division and inequality, pandemic after-effects, the threat of jobs displaced by AI, growing social media harms, and rising mental health issues that countries have severely neglected,” said Professor John Buchanan, Co-Director of the Mental Wealth Initiative.

We hosted this forum in Davos at the same time as the World Economic Forum to highlight the importance of mental wealth to heads of state, policy makers, philanthropists and business leaders who have the power to address these destructive problems.
Professor John Buchanan

Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium (centre) chaired a roundtable discussion with members of the Mental Wealth Initiative and other forum panellists. Pictures: Belgian Royal Palace

Professor Ian Hickie, co-director of the Mental Wealth Initiative, said: “We must get the investment in ‘mental wealth’ on the agenda not only of governments and international agencies but also the CEOs of major international corporations. We need investments in connection and collective action as we respond to major 21st century challenges.”

The forum showcased the latest efforts to model the social, economic, and health system drivers of mental health, which will ultimately provide an interactive decision support tool to help understand how policies and strategic investments across those systems could enhance mental wealth.

Panellist Murali Doraiswamy, professor at Duke University and former co-chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Mental Health, said: “In this AI and tech-driven era, mental capital is our key asset. There is no better investment nations can make as our future depends on it.”

A full recording of the forum is available upon request.


  • Nouriel Roubini – author, former senior economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers
  • Murali Doraiswamy – Professor, Duke University School of Medicine, and former Co-Chair of World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Mental Health
  • Sharan Burrow – global advocate for human rights and climate action, former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation
  • Zeinab Hijazi – Global Lead on Mental Health, UNICEF
  • Laura Ospina-Pinillos – Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia
  • Frédéric Destrebecq – Executive Director of the European Brain Council
  • Cara Altimus – Managing Director of BD2 and Milken Institute


This event was sponsored by the University of Sydney and BHP Foundation, in partnership with the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, UNICEF, IFM Investments, CSART, and the European Brain Council. It is not affiliated with the World Economic Forum.

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Harrison Vesey

Media Advisor (Business)

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