Mental Disorders Cost Billions

Direct costs associated with mental disorders like medication, clinic visits, and hospitalization, are relatively easy to quantify, but they reveal only a small portion of the economic burden these illnesses place on society. Indirect costs like lost earnings likely account for enormous expenses, but they are very difficult to define and estimate.

Using data from 4,982 respondents, the researchers calculated the amount of earnings lost in the year prior to the survey among people with serious mental illness (SMI). SMI is a broad category of illnesses that includes mood and anxiety disorders that have seriously impaired a person‘s ability to function for at least 30 days in the year prior to the survey. It also includes cases of any mental disorder associated with life-threatening suicidal behaviours or repeated acts of violence.

Eighty-six percent of respondents reported earning income in the previous year. But those with SMI reported earning significantly less around $22,545 than respondents without SMI, who averaged $38,852. Although men with SMI took a greater hit in earnings than women with SMI, men still earned more overall than women with and without SMI.

By extrapolating these results to the general population, the researchers calculated that SMI costs society $193.2 billion annually in lost earnings. The researchers attributed about 75 percent of this total to the reduced income that people with SMI likely earn, while 25 percent is attributed to the increased likelihood that people with SMI would have no earnings.

The researchers concluded by recommending that future studies on the effectiveness of treatments should consider measuring employment status and earnings over the long term to document the effects of mental disorders on a person‘s functioning and ability to remain productive.

MEDICA.de; Source: NIH/National Institute of Mental Health