What is the economic impact of mental health issues?

Mental health issues carry a huge emotional cost. But what about the financial costs? According to a study, the economic impact of mental illness in the EU is a loss of 4% GDP on average, and changes in the labour market can make the situation even worse.

The research, which was carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that around one in six people – or 84 million – in the EU are directly affected by mental health issues, and 10 million are affected by mental disorders.

As well as having a massive impact on the lives of these individuals, the researchers found that the cost to EU economies of this is over €600 billion. When you break this figure down, the money goes towards health care, social security programs, and lower productivity.

The most commonly reported mental disorder in the EU is anxiety, which affects around 5% of the population. This is closely followed by depression at 4.5%, and drug and alcohol disorders, which affects around 2.5% of the total population.

Mental health is one of the main causes of long-term sickness, and according to the report, people suffering from chronic depression are much less likely to be employed – the statistics show that less than half of depression sufferers are currently in work.

Across the EU, it was found that the countries with the highest costs for mental health were Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. Those with the lowest were Lithuania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania. However, it was noted that these differences could be due to some countries having more effective diagnosis and treatment.

It’s estimated that mental health problems caused over 84,000 deaths in 2015 in the EU. Because of this, the European Commission has called on countries to improve their services to try and encourage earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. Not only would this potentially save lives, it could, as seen in the report, strengthen many economies.

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