UK faces £94bn mental health bill

23 Nov 18

Mental illness is costing the UK more than £94bn every year in treatment, social support costs and lower employment, the OECD has estimated.

According to the organisation’s report on health in Europe, mental ill health is something the whole continent is struggling with, as it affects an estimated 84 million people.

The cost to the UK economy is in line with the average for Europe at 4% of GDP. Nearly half - £42bn – of the costs for the UK are related to lower employment and productivity.

The OECD said promotion of good mental health in schools and further investment in mental health for school-aged children could reduce the risks of pupils dropping out of school.

It also highlighted efforts in England to combat loneliness with lunch clubs and befriending services.

Commenting on the OECD findings, Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “It is important that strategies to improve health, including mental health, take a life course approach starting from the early years, the transition into adulthood and right through to older ages.

“There are also stark inequalities with the poorest fifth in the UK almost three times as likely to report a mental health problem as the richest fifth and the underlying causes of health including poverty must be addressed to tackle this.”

The Health at a Glance: Europe 2018 also pointed out that “up to one fifth of health spending [in Europe] is inefficient and could be used for other care needs”. For example, unnecessary admissions consume over 37 million hospital bed days each year, it said.

Besides the impact on people’s wellbeing, the report estimates the total costs of mental ill-health at over €500bn – more than 4% of GDP – across the 28 EU member states.

Across Europe, there has been a slowdown in rising life expectancy as the drop in cardiovascular deaths – including heart attacks and strokes – slows down. This is possibly linked to lifestyle issues such as obesity and alcohol.

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