High-prevalence mental health disorders cost society billions

July 3, 2017

New research puts a price on high-prevalence mental health conditions.

Deakin University research has put a price on high-prevalence mental conditions in Australia, with an estimated $12.8 billion attributed to depression, anxiety and substance-use, in terms of related health and other societal costs each year.

This financial cost is in addition to the incalculable personal costs suffered by individuals experiencing these conditions and their families.

The study, funded by the Medibank Better Health Foundation, analysed data from the most recent National Survey of Health and Wellbeing, which found 18.5 per cent of Australians suffered from these three most common within the previous 12 months.

Senior researcher Associate Professor Cathy Mihalopoulos, from Deakin Health Economics in the Centre for Population Health Research, said the study estimated costs associated with the use of healthcare resources, productivity loss, income tax loss, and welfare benefits.

"Mental and behavioural health disorders are the third biggest disease burden in Australia after cancer and cardiovascular diseases," she said.

The total cost to society was broken down into $974 million in and $11.8 billion in total productivity loss. Additional costs to governments included $1.23 billion in forgone income taxes and $12.9 billion in welfare benefits.

"Only 40 per cent of people included in this study with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety or substance use reported accessing any healthcare services for their mental health," Associate Professor Mihalopoulos said.

"This may indicate an unmet need for more or could indicate that there are barriers to people seeking care for , such as stigma.

"However, the survey used to conduct these analyses was conducted in 2007, prior to important national mental health reforms. This highlights the need for a third national survey."

Chair of the Medibank Better Health Foundation Dr Linda Swan said the research revealed the importance of improving access to mental health support in Australia.

"Mental health has been a key health focus in Australia in recent years, but to learn the impact is at least $12.8 billion is a call to do more.

"The broad-ranging effects for those living with depression, anxiety and substance-use can be devastating and we encourage more Australians to seek help from their GP if they don't know where to start," Dr Swan said.

"It's also important for those who think a friend or family member is struggling, to reach out and then listen. Social support can be critical to help deliver the best health outcomes."

Associate Professor Mihalopoulos said that when it came to the use of healthcare services, visits to doctors such as general practitioners were the most commonly used service.

"About a third of the people in the survey reported consulting a healthcare professional for ," she said.

"Nearly 23 per cent of the group also reported the use of medication relevant to their mental health and, from the individual's perspective, medications accounted for a third of the overall out-of-pocket , with the balance attributed to consultation services."

Dr Mihalopoulos said the total productivity loss was made up of time that employed people lost from work, as well as lost earnings due to higher rates of unemployment for people with a mental health diagnosis.

"According to the survey, about 148,000 people in this group are not in work," she said.

"Seventy per cent of this group (below the age of 65) indicated they were employed, but more than a quarter reported a loss of working days due to their mental illness, with an average of 38 days lost per year."

Dr Mihalopoulos said a key take-away message from the report was the great economic burden associated with anxiety disorders.

"While depressive disorders have received considerable attention both in the scientific and popular media, we hear far less about the impact of those suffering from anxiety," she said.

"Our study has demonstrated that the economic burden of such disorders is in fact considerable and improved support could make a big difference for individuals and society in general."

The report, "Cost of high prevalence mental disorders in Australia," was recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Explore further: Hidden workforce of mental health carers saves Australia $13.2b

More information: Yu-Chen Lee et al. Cost of high prevalence mental disorders: Findings from the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0004867417710730

Related Stories

Hidden workforce of mental health carers saves Australia $13.2b

March 23, 2017
Carers supporting Australians with mental illness are providing services that would cost governments $13.2 billion to replace, a new report has found.

Mental health prevalence steady, pensions on the rise

June 13, 2017
The prevalence of common mental disorders (CMDs) such as depression and anxiety in Australia was fairly stable between 2001 and 2014, but the number of working-age individuals receiving a disability support pension (DSP) ...

Half of adults with anxiety or depression report chronic pain

May 31, 2017
In a survey of adults with anxiety or a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder, about half reported experiencing chronic pain, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. ...

Many NHS patients experience relapse of depression and anxiety problems after discharge from mental

May 1, 2017
A new study reveals approximately 53 per cent of NHS patients had a clinically significant deterioration of depression and anxiety symptoms within a year after completing brief psychological treatments.

National mental-health survey finds widespread ignorance, stigma

April 27, 2017
Less than half of Americans can recognize anxiety. Most people don't know what to do about depression even when they spot it. And nearly 8 in 10 don't recognize prescription drug abuse as a treatable problem.

Aussie kids seeking help with ADHD, anxiety disorders

April 6, 2016
Almost one in seven Australian children suffers from a mental health disorder over the course of a year, according to a Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) study.

Recommended for you

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

Precision medicine opens the door to scientific wellness preventive approaches to suicide

August 15, 2017
Researchers have developed a more precise way of diagnosing suicide risk, by developing blood tests that work in everybody, as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly ...

US antidepressant use jumps 65 percent in 15 years

August 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

Child's home learning environment predicts 5th grade academic skills

August 15, 2017
Children whose parents provide them with learning materials like books and toys and engage them in learning activities and meaningful conversations in infancy and toddlerhood are likely to develop early cognitive skills that ...

Obesity and depression are entwined, yet scientists don't know why

August 15, 2017
About 15 years ago, Dr. Sue McElroy, a psychiatrist in Mason, Ohio, started noticing a pattern. People came to see her because they were depressed, but they frequently had a more visible ailment as well: They were heavy.

Givers really are happier than takers

August 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Generosity really is its own reward, with the brain seemingly hardwired for happiness in response to giving, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.