The Economic and Social Burden

The Economic Burden
A report by the Centre for Economic Performance, 'How mental illness loses out in the NHS', published in June 2012, made it clear that the failure to invest properly in our mental health is folly. Failing to fund research now in order to develop more effective treatments is a false economy.
  • Only a handful of countries worldwide devote more than 10% of the total health budget to mental health.[1]
  • Among people in work, mental illness accounts for nearly half of all absenteeism.[2]
  • The total non-NHS cost of adult mental illness to the UK Exchequer is around £28 billion.[3]
  • It is estimated that mental illness reduces Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 4.1% - i.e., £52 billion a year.[4]
  • Annually overall, mental ill-health costs the UK economy an estimated £105 billion, a significant increase from the total cost of £77.4 billion in 2003.[5]


A report by the Centre for Economic Performance, 'How mental illness loses out in the NHS', published in June 2012, made it clear that the failure to invest properly in our mental health is folly.

Did you know:

  • Approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem[1]
  • At least 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and some estimates are as high as 1 in 2[2]
  • At least a third of all families include someone who is currently mentally ill[3]
  • Depression - the leading cause of disability worldwide - will be the single biggest medical burden on healthcare by 2020[4]
  • 1 in 12 children and young people deliberately self-harm[8]
  • Approximately 40,000 cases annually of self-harm by children and young people result in hospitalisation[8]

Many people with mental illness cannot cope in the community and will be admitted to psychiatric institutions. Those unfortunate enough to be treatment-resistant (i.e., unresponsive to current treatments) may have to spend many months or even years in hospital:

  • In 2010-11, over 21,000 people in the UK were admitted to a psychiatric hospital.[5]
  • Approximately 5% of people admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the UK remain an inpatient for over a year.[6]
  • Globally, almost a quarter of those admitted to psychiatric hospitals remain there longer than one year after admission.[7]

[1] World Health Organisation, 2001, 'Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope', chp.1.

[2] McManus, et al., (2009) 'Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England, 2007: Results of a household survey', Leeds: NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care; Moffitt, et al., (2010) 'How common are common mental disorders? Evidence that lifetime rates are doubled by prospective versus retrospective ascertainment', Psychological Medicine, 40, 899-909.

[3] 'How mental illness loses out in the NHS', Centre for Economic Performance, June 2012. p.6

[4] 'Mental Health: A Call for Action by World Health Ministers' (2001), WHO.

[5] The Health and Social Care Information Centre, 'Mental Health Bulletin Fifth report from Mental Health Minimum Dataset (MHMDS) annual returns', 2011, p.29.

[6] The Health and Social Care Information Centre, 'Mental Health Bulletin Fifth report from Mental Health Minimum Dataset (MHMDS) annual returns', 2011, p.30.

[7] Mental health atlas 2011. Geneva, World Health Organisation, 2011.

[8] 'Talking Self-harm', Young Minds and The Cello Group, October 2012.