Mental illnesses affect a large number of people, impact on their quality of life and have high socioeconomic costs. "The three disease groups that the National Health System spends most on in Spain are cancer, circulatory system diseases and mental illnesses", Juan Oliva, lead author of the study, explains. The study shows that mental illnesses are the second leading cause of temporary and permanent sick leave, after osteomuscular complaints.
The objective of the study was to estimate the socioeconomic impact of this kind of disease in Spain, based on data from 2002, the year with the greatest number of recorded sources. The latest figures, published on the Ministry of Health's website, are from 2006, but these are not broken down by disease type.
In addition to using normal units of evaluation, such as the number of premature deaths caused by mental disease, numbers of hospitalisations, doctor's visits and time off work, the team also included another indicator in their study – direct non-medical costs, in other words the costs assumed by those caring for people who have lost their autonomy to some degree as a result of a mental illness.
The total cost of mental illnesses in Spain in 2002 has been estimated to be at least €7.019 billion, with direct medical costs accounting for 39.6 per cent of this amount, representing at least 7.3 per cent of total public healthcare costs in Spain that year. According to the research, direct costs resulting from mental illnesses represented 57.3 per cent of the total estimated cost, with the remaining 42.7 per cent representing the loss in workplace productivity.
In terms of direct medical costs, the most significant expenditure resulted from hospitalisations (19.1 per cent of total estimated cost) and drugs (15.6 per cent of total estimated cost). Overall, total expenditure in 2002 represented almost 1 per cent of Spain's gross domestic product (GDP).
MEDICA.de; Source: FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology