The cost of mental illness is $282 billion per year in the United States.

The cost of mental illness is $282 billion per year in the United States.

Act to stem what we now call the evil of the century. This is the challenge for many countries around the world, whether for the well-being of their population or for that of their economy. A new study reveals that mental health disorders cost the United States as much as $282 billion each year.

Whether it was the cause or the detonator of awareness, the Covid-19 pandemic has considerably changed mentalities regarding mental disorders which affect a large part of the world's population, particularly the youngest. A study carried out by Edelman Data & Intelligence for the lululemon brand in September 2023 told us that a third of the world's population had never felt so bad. Figures confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) which continues to warn of this burden, urging nations since 2022 to “transform mental health and care“. The world health authority estimates that nearly a billion people suffered from a mental disorder in 2019, including 14% of adolescents. A figure that has continued to rise since the health crisis.

Work, social and economic inequalities, wars, climate crisis, screens… The obstacles to the well-being of the world's population seem multiple and as diverse as they are varied. If mental health disorders are today considered a public health emergency, sometimes even called 'the evil of the century', it also appears that they weigh heavily on the economy of certain countries. This is what reveals a new analysis carried out by American researchers, made public by Yale University.

This study, the first of its kind, integrates psychiatric studies and economic modeling to better understand the macroeconomic effects of mental illness in the United States“, we can read in a press release. We learn that mental illnesses weigh 282 billion dollars on the American economy each year, or 1.7% of the country's overall consumption. The authors of this work specify moreover that this estimate exceeds by approximately 30% all those which have previously been made public.

While these previous studies focused on mental illness-related income loss and the costs of treating mental illness, the new study also considers a range of other negative economic consequences associated with mental illness, including that people with mental illness consume less, invest less in homes, stocks and other risky assets, and may choose less demanding jobs“, explains Aleh Tsyvinski, an economist at Yale University.

600 billion euros in Europe

If we look at the European Union, the total cost linked to mental health problems would amount to more than 600 billion euros each year. This concerns the twenty-seven countries of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom, and would be equivalent to more than 4% of gross domestic product (GDP), as highlighted in the report 'Health at a glance: Europe 2018'. This cost includes direct spending on healthcare (190 billion euros), indirect spending linked to the impact on employment and productivity (240 billion euros), as well as social security programs (170 Billions of Euro's). We also learn that these problems affected no less than 84 million people in 2016, well before the Covid-19 pandemic. This suggests an increase in costs linked to mental illnesses in recent years.

Just a year ago, the observation was (almost) the same in Singapore, at least in proportion to the population. A study by researchers at Duke – NUS Medical School and the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) estimated the annual cost of anxiety and depression, two mental health disorders, to be $11.7 billion. in the city-state, or 2.9% of GDP. An observation which then pushed researchers to recommend improving access to support programs and treatments, as well as knowledge about mental health, and the generalization of the training of health professionals to treat this type of symptoms.