Investing in depression and anxiety treatment could yield huge economic returns

A new study makes the case for scaling up global response to these mental health disorders

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 13 April 2016

A study, published in the Lancet, has projected that a US $147-billion investment in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety could result in improved labour force participation and productivity worth $399 billion.

The global return on investment analysis is based on treatment costs and health outcomes of 36 countries between 2016 and 2030. These 36 countries are spread over all six of World Health Organization’s major regions and account for 80 per cent of the world population and 80 per cent of the global disease burden for depression and anxiety disorders.

The study states that the increase in investment ($147 billion) would amount to less than $10 billion per year on average. Even if the scope of the study was extended to include the remaining 20 per cent of the world’s population not living in these countries, the total cost would increase to $184 billion.

In return, the number of healthy life-years gained over 15 years would be 43 million. The decrease in prevalence of depression and anxiety cases over 15 years—as a result of treated cases recovering from illness more quickly—would result in 73 million fewer cases of depression and 45 million fewer cases of anxiety disorder.

“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, in an official press release. “This is not just a public health issue—it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

The absence of scaled-up treatment for depression and anxiety disorders is projected to result in 12 billion days of lost productivity in the 36 largest countries every year. This will come at an estimated annual cost of $925 billion in these countries and a staggering $1.15 trillion globally.

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