Investing in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to four-fold return: UN

Apr 14, 2016 11:17 IST

The United Nations (UN) health agency on 13 April 2016 unveiled a study that stated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy 1 trillion US dollars each year. The study also revealed the fact that every one dollar invested in scaling up treatment leads to a return of four dollars in better health and ability to work.

The study for the first time estimates the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness globally. It also provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.

The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Increase in depression and anxiety

The study stated increase in common mental disorders worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50 per cent. Close to 10 per cent of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30 per cent of the global non-fatal disease burden.

Besides, humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as one in five people are affected by depression and anxiety during emergencies.

Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs

The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes in 36 low-, middle- and high-income countries for the 15 years from 2016-2030. The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and antidepressant medication, amounted to 147 billion US dollars. Still, the returns far outweigh the costs.

However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed.

Finance and development actors meet to consider scale-up

The World Bank and WHO, in collaboration, are hosting a series of events as part of the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC. The meetings aim to bring ministers of finance, development agencies, academic experts and practitioners together to discuss how to put mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda globally and in countries.

Also, scaling up mental health services will contribute to reducing by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 2030, one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), endorsed at the UN General Assembly in 2015.

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