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Treating anxiety, depression can help global economy, study says


For every dollar spent on treating depression and anxiety, the return on the investment could be fourfold in terms of increased productivity and health, new research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. In addition, close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, with the global economy spending upwards of US $1 trillion each year to tackle mental illness.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, earlier this week ahead of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health.

“We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO in a statement.

“We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live,” said Chan.

According to the study, the estimated costs of treatments (psycho-social counselling and antidepressant medication) in 36 low, middle, and high-income countries from 2016-2030 would be US $147 billion.

However, according to the report, the returns far outweigh the costs.

A 5% improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US $399 billion, and improved health adds an additional US $310 billion in returns.

According to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.

For World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, this is no longer just a public health issue – it’s a development issue.

“We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

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Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Marketing Communications Specialist at FreeBalance
Michael works in the marketing and communications department following a career in journalism. Michael is currently learning Ruby on Rails and loves discovering new music.

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