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Mental ill health costs society £300 billion every year, according to new Centre for Mental Health economic analysis

27 March 2024

The economic and social costs of mental ill health in England reached £300 billion in 2022, according to new research from Centre for Mental Health and commissioned by the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network.

This figure captures economic costs (including those related to sickness absence, presenteeism, staff turnover and unemployment) of £110bn, ‘human costs’ (in terms of reduced quality of life and wellbeing) of £130bn, and health and care costs (including informal care) of £60bn.

The overall costs of mental ill health equate to double the NHS’s entire budget in England in 2022 (£153bn). They are similar to the estimated impact of Covid-19 on the UK economy in 2020 (£260bn in 2020 prices) – a comparable impact, economically, to having a pandemic every year.

The economic and social costs of mental ill health, by Frederico Cardoso and Zoë McHayle, says that the majority of the costs stemming from mental ill health fall on people living with mental health difficulties and their families (£175bn), with £25bn falling to the state and £101bn to businesses. The costs include lost or lower earnings for people living with mental health difficulties, business losses due to poor mental health at work, and the costs of informal care. Importantly, the study also captures the human cost of mental ill health, in terms of reduced quality of life and premature mortality.

For the first time in a study of this kind, the report’s calculations incorporate some of the wider costs, including the impact of presenteeism and staff turnover due to mental ill health. The calculations also include the impact that having a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to carry out unpaid work (such as housework) which sits at £3.4bn, and the costs of having to pay for private therapy.

The new figures demonstrate the urgent need for action to turn the tide on rising poor mental health, according to the report’s authors. They warn that failure to act may lead to even higher costs that no government can afford to ignore.

Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network are calling for a comprehensive ten-year mental health strategy, as set out by more than 60 organisations in A Mentally Healthier Nation. We need action to protect and promote the public’s mental health, alongside sustained investment in mental health services.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive, Andy Bell, said: “A pound sign can never fully reflect the suffering caused by mental ill health. But these figures signal an urgent need for the Government, and all political parties at the next election, to prioritise the public’s mental health. This is like a pandemic happening every year. Inaction is not an option. A comprehensive, long-term cross-government plan is needed to reduce these costs and build a mentally healthier nation.”

The NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network chief executive, Sean Duggan OBE, said: “This detailed financial analysis lays bare the cost of mental ill health to the nation. With the overall cost double the cost of the NHS’s entire annual budget, this simply cannot be ignored by policy makers. The false economy of failing to invest in mental health is making the country poorer and causing unspoken anguish to so many people and their loved ones. It is vital that we now invest in effective interventions that bring us closer to a mentally healthier nation for all.”

Centre for Mental Health Ambassador and Vice Chair of the Mental Health Network, Marsha McAdam, said: “Mental ill health has had a lasting impact on my finances, my use of social care and my quality of life. Had I been able to access meaningful early intervention years ago, my life trajectory could have been so different. The Government has the power to reduce the impacts of mental ill health on people like me. By properly investing in mental health support, they can ensure that everyone has the best chance of a mentally healthy life.”

Download the report

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