The Financial Impact of Depression

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Have you ever wondered how much your depression is costing you each year? Does anyone have any idea? Depression does not only extract a monetary cost. There is also the personal cost of lost opportunities, relationships, and time. In this post I am going to use my personal life as an example of how much depression can cost per year in monetary terms.  And you will get to hear a little of my depression history as well.  I am eager for members to share their own rough calculations of how much depression is costing them on average each year. In a subsequent post we will discuss the personal cost of depression.

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    In my twenties… It was in my twenties that my depression was becoming too big of a problem for me to ignore. It was a rough decade. In those years I began a new relationship, had the first job of my career, and was attempting to get two Master’s degrees. During this time I also got married, I had a miscarriage, and then experienced infertility for several years. It was also during my twenties that my depression was increasing to the point where I found myself crying at work and unable to function very well. On one particularly tearful day my co-worker handed me the phone after having made me an appointment with a therapist. It was the best gift anyone could have given me.


    In addition to therapy I also tried an antidepressant for the first time. I was taking nortriptyline for about six months under the advice of my doctor.  I discontinued it so I could try to have a baby. 


    Financial cost of treating depression in my twenties:

    Remember that this is just a rough estimate. I am also going to estimate the monetary cost for one year. During the worst of my depression I was seeing my therapist twice a week. Also keep in mind that I had the best health insurance of my life back then (we will never see such coverage again) when I worked for a local university hospital.


    Cost of 50 minute psychotherapy session: $100

    40 weeks of therapy 2x a week.

    Yearly cost: $8,000 for therapy

    Cost of nortriptyline: I do not know how much this medication cost back in the 90’s. Nowadays this older antidepressant can be found on the Target list of generic drugs where you can buy a 90 day supply for only $10.00.


    Highest estimated monetary cost of depression per year in my twenties:

    Over $8,000


    My insurance paid for mostly all of this. It was not until the late nineties when I was beginning to have to pay a considerable amount of out of pocket for the co-pay.


    In my forties… Let’s get into my time machine and travel the decades to my forties where I am now. I had ended my therapy when I turned thirty because it was then that I finally had children. These were the years where I was consumed with being a parent. When it was found that my youngest son had autism at the age of four my focus was even more intense upon helping my children. I did still suffer from depression but it went untreated due to my focus on family. I put myself last and ended up physically and emotionally exhausted.

  • My depression hit a new low when I found myself calling a hotline for help. But it wasn’t until my 40’s when I finally did something about it. When I was almost 42 I was diagnosed with an incurable disease called Multiple Sclerosis.  I already had my son’s autism and my depression to cope with so this new disease became the catalyst for getting some help. I did seek out a therapist and also some non-prescription ways to deal with my depression.


    In one year I maybe went to therapy for a total of a little over 8 months with two separate therapists (neither one worked out unfortunately.)

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    Financial cost of treating depression in my forties:


    Therapy once a week with a social worker trained in counseling: $100 per session (often went over an hour) or therapy once a week with a psychologist $100 per session (50 minute session)

    Estimated 35 weeks of therapy at $100 per week: $3500


    Side Note: My first therapist was a noted psychologist in his field who had trained at taught at Harvard. Some years later I was paying the same price for someone having far fewer credentials and experience. I have never seen a psychiatrist and I dare say that I probably could not afford one.


    About insurance: The days when you got most of mental health costs paid through insurance are over. You have a limited amount of sessions (in my case 25) in a year to get better. The emphasis is on short term treatment. Even “good” insurance doesn’t cover that much. I had to first meet a huge deductible which went for the first six sessions. My insurance would only pay for 10 sessions at 80% and then it would pay 50% for fifteen sessions. If I needed more sessions than this it was out of my pocket. An unpleasant surprise was to find that the six sessions I first paid for out of pocket to meet the deductible, counted against the sessions they are supposed to pay at 80%. So I paid six hundred dollars for session 1-6 and then they only paid the 80% for sessions 7-10. Needless to say, that when you are depressed and figuring out that you can’t afford the treatment, you get more depressed.


    • Therapy: $3500 a year (some paid through insurance, some paid out of pocket)

    • Natural Supplement, SAM-e, to treat my depression: At Whole Foods Market I pay about $70 for 60 coated tablets of 400 mg each. That equates to $35 a month and $420 a year.


    • Additional supplements including Melatonin, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, folic acid, fish oil, and more. Estimated cost at around $500 a year.  This is a really rough estimate.


    • Exercise is very important for your mental and physical health. My gym membership at a low cost gym is about $240 a year.


    Total cost of treating my depression with therapy: $4,660 a year

    Cost of currently treating my depression without therapy: $1160 a year


    I have to say that it is worth it to get treatment and if the treatment doesn't work out to keep trying.  If you do not have insurance or money there are other ways to get help.  For those of you in this boat please read my post, "How Do I Get Mental Health Services with No Money and No Insurance?"


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    Now it is your turn. I have a feeling that my numbers are low compared to some of you. Seeing a psychiatrist, expensive medications, hospital stays, and alternative treatments can ratchet the cost of depression quite considerably. If you count in things like lost wages or losing employment the cost of a mood disorder can be astronomical. What do you estimate that treating your depression is costing you in a year? And how much does insurance or other health benefits cover of your treatment? Let us know your story. It just might help someone else.

Published On: July 19, 2010