In October 2023 AXA published the 10th edition of its Future Risks Report, a study that “measures and ranks” global perception of “evolving and rising risks”. For this edition, the focus is on the concept of “polycrisis”, the simultaneous or interacting occurrence of multiple catastrophes. The threats listed in the report “no longer follow one another but are happening at the same time”. In the report issues range from artificial intelligence and cybersecurity to global warming.
This year, pandemics and infectious diseases rank 9th in the list. We will explore this position in greater detail below. However, it is also significant that “trust in various players to limit the consequences of new global crises” is increasing. Most pertinent to us, scientists are trusted by 84% of experts and 70% of the “general population”.
Introducing: polycrisis and risk
The foreword by AXA’s CEO, Thomas Burbel, refers to the report as an “essential reference point” for the insurance industry and opinion leaders. For his organisation, “risks are central”.
“Anticipating these risks helps us to guard against them and prepare for them more effectively.”
Through a decade of changing perceptions, the report monitors expert and “general” perspectives. However, this year the survey results “map out the contours of a world in ‘polycrisis’ where risks are now interconnected”.
“Against this background, the concept of risk takes on a new dimension.”
The report then suggests that the last three years are best summarised by the word “polycrisis”. The COVID-19 pandemic was “closely followed” by the “return of war in Europe and renewed tensions in the Middle East”. Alongside this, “increasingly extreme weather events” have signalled the hold of climate change. Furthermore, another source of “uncertainty” is now demanding attention: artificial intelligence (AI)
To understand the “experts” the researchers surveyed 3,226 experts in 50 countries between 10th May and 16th June 2023. Many of these experts (87%) worked at AXA, with “distribution/marketing” and “risk management” highly represented.
To understand the “public” the survey involved 19,016 members of the public in 15 countries between 10th May and 14th June 2023. Countries were selected by region and market size with results weighted to reveal global and regional results.
The top 10 risks
The survey contrasts the opinions of “experts” with the “public”. Although pandemic risk was a “significant faller” in experts’ views, dropping from 5th in 2022 to 9th this year, the public perception places it at 2nd with “concern running highest in the Africa and Asia regions.
“The public worry far more than experts about pandemics. Members of the public again ranked pandemic risk 2nd this year, after climate change. There is now a huge gap in the perception of this risk between the public and experts, who rank it only 9th this year.”
AXA takes the practical “insurance point of view” here, suggesting that the figures are “reassuring in the sense that if another pandemic were to manifest, populations would remain well prepared”. We would be interested to hear if this view is shared by our readers, who perhaps interact more closely with members of the public in matters of health.
There are three “main concerns” for pandemics and infectious diseases risks:
- New strains of infectious diseases
- Changing patterns of infectious diseases due to the impact of climate change
- Antimicrobial resistance and “superbugs”
Trust the science
This year’s survey reveals an increase in confidence in “a range of actors” to “tackle any new global crisis”. This is a rebound after a “fall” last year. Confidence levels are “higher across the board” for experts than the public. Experts are “most likely to trust scientists”, with a score of 84%; this is an increase from 82%. The public are “also most willing” to trust scientists with a 4% increase to 70%.
To what extent do you agree with either or both of the rankings for disease in the report? Do you agree with the other findings? Don’t forget to subscribe for more global health insights.