New report on mental health and the economy

March 14, 2022

Mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9bn annually, according to a new report published by the Mental Health Foundation and London School of Economics and Political Science.

The report, ‘The economic case for investing in the prevention of mental health conditions in the UK’, makes the case for a prevention-based approach to mental health which would both improve mental wellbeing while reducing the economic costs of poor mental health.

The cost of mental health problems is equivalent to around 5% of the UK’s GDP. To put this figure into context the monetary costs of the NHS in England in 2019/20 were £150.4bn, whilst the cost of the furlough scheme to protect the income of workers during the COVID pandemic was approximately £70bn.

Almost three-quarters of the cost (72%) is due to the lost productivity of people living with mental health conditions and costs incurred by unpaid informal carers who take on a great deal of responsibility in providing mental health support in our communities.

Across the UK there were 10.3 million recorded instances of mental ill-health over a one-year period, and the third most common cause of disability was depression. Specialist mental health care costs are estimated to be £13 billion, 11% of total costs. These costs reflect current service use, but there is a high level of unmet need; in England in 2019 44% of mental health service providers in a survey reported being unable to meet current demands for inpatient services, rising to 58% for community mental health services and 81% for child and adolescent mental health services.

The researcher’s estimate of social care costs of £1.2 billion is conservative; this covers local authority funded costs and does not include costs funded from other sources, including self-funded care. Education costs, albeit restricted to just special educational needs provision, account for more than £2.5bn.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of Mental Health Foundation, said, ‘We urge governments across the UK to pay attention to what the evidence is telling us and commit to investing in cost-effective prevention interventions that are proven to work. Too often decision-makers may ignore or dismiss evidence-based programmes and policies focused on prevention, citing prohibitive expense. The truth is we cannot afford the spiralling costs to both people’s wellbeing and our economy by trying to treat our way out of the mental health crisis. Investing in society-wide measures to prevent poor mental health and address the factors that pose a risk to our mental health, will help people to thrive at every stage of their lives and boost our economy by billions in the long-term.’

Visit the Mental Health UK website to read the report in full.

In other news, The Centre for Ageing Better has published two new reports, based on research conducted by NatCen Social Research, examining volunteering and community connectedness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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