Mental health problems 'cost the UK economy at least £118 billion a year'
A new report calls on the Government to 'make a radical change' to prevent mental ill health in order to lower overall costs
Mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £117.9 billion every year, according to a new report.
The study, from the Mental Health Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science, shows the cost of poor mental health is equivalent to around 5% of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of the size and health of a country’s economy.
Almost three-quarters of the cost (72%) is due to lost productivity of those living with mental health conditions such as depression, and the costs incurred by unpaid, informal carers.
The study said the Government’s approach should be to try to prevent mental ill health, which would ultimately cut overall costs.
Studies suggest that working to prevent poor mental health can be effective, such as supporting mothers and young children, parenting courses, anti-bullying programmes in schools and mindfulness courses for adults.
Other areas include exercise programmes to prevent depression, tackling social isolation in the elderly and working to reduce the risks to mental health from not having enough money.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our report reveals the monumental cost to the economy of poor mental health.
“It also demonstrates the opportunity to make a radical change in our approach to mental health by prioritising prevention, resulting in improved wellbeing for all and reducing costs to our economy.
“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.
“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.”
The report said parenting programmes suggest up to £15.80 can be made in long-term savings for every £1 spent on delivering the plans.
Meanwhile, a review of programmes in the workplace to support good mental health found savings of £5 for every £1 invested.
Lead author of the report, David McDaid, associate professional research fellow in health policy and health economics at the London School of Economics, said: “Our estimate of the economic impacts of mental health conditions, much of which is felt well beyond the health and social care sector, is a conservative estimate.
“What is clear is that there is a sound economic case for investing in effective preventive measures, particularly at a time when mental health may be especially vulnerable because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This requires further sustained and co-ordinated actions not only within the health and social care sector, but across the whole of government.”