Mind-Body: The Real Cost of Mental Health
In 2003 almost 16% of the gross domestic product was spent on health care. That same year, less than one percent of the gross domestic product (only 7% of health care dollars) were spent on mental health care even though almost 15 percent of the U.S.population suffers from a diagnosable mental illness (including substance abuse).
The need is great, the spending is inequitable and result are disastrous. The fact that psychological treatment is not viewed as a legitimate aspect of health care is foolish. More psychological care results in significantly less money spent on health care, disability, and lost productivity.
The "medical cost offset effect" has been studied for over 40 years and during that time studies have consistently shown that those with psychological stress use more health care. Up to 60% of visits with primary care physicians are instances in which a person with a mental health need is seeking medical care.
Individuals with psychological problems are more prone to illness and disability. MetLife reports that roughly 10 percent of long-term disability claims and six or seven percent of short-term disability claims are due to psychiatric disorders. And, compared to other types of short-term disability claims, the claims due to psychiatric disorders tend to result in more days missed from work.
A U.S. Surgeon General's report in 1999 found that absenteeism and lost productivity due to untreated mental health disorders cost American businesses an estimated $70 billion the prior year. In addition, untreated mental health problems results in a host of 'collateral damage' to individuals, families, communities and the nation. On a national level, adequate mental health care would result in fewer psychiatric hospitalizations, less drug and alcohol abuse and less of a burden on the criminal justice system where a large percentage of incarcerated youth and adults are mentally ill.
The cost of treating mental health problems is probably a bargain relative to the continued costs of not treating them.