12 Billion Working Days Lost to Depression

Medical Reviewer

Without greater willingness to tackle anxiety and depression, a staggering 12 billion days, that’s 50 million years of work, will be lost to the two disorders between now and 2030. These are the findings of a World Health Organization (WHO) analysis, recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The study claims that a global failure to address the growing problems of anxiety and depression is costing the world nearly $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. For their analysis, researchers set this figure against the cost of increasing both medication and psychosocial counseling for the next 15 years (at an estimated $147 billion). With that, the analysis concluded that the investment to tackle anxiety and depression would drive a 5 percent increase in the labor force, worth $399 billion, and would add another $310 billion in improved health returns.

Put another way, for every $1 invested in treatment services, we would see a $4 return in better health and ability to work.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, is quoted in The Guardian newspaper noting that the current approach to mental health services is no longer economically viable. Kim states, “We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

Mental health issues now affect almost 10 percent of the world’s population, approximately 740 million people. According to the WHO, we’ve also seen a 50 percent increase in anxiety and depression between 1990 and 2013, and a further 20 percent of people are affected by depression and anxiety during war and humanitarian crises. However, the report highlights that countries spend, on average, $1.50 per person per year on treating depression.

The WHO’s Mental Atlas Survey of 2014 showed that spending less than $2 a person on treatment and prevention of mental health disorders was also average for most middle to low income countries. High income countries on the other hand, have been shown to invest more than $50 per person according to the survey. Unfortunately, experts say that the disparity in how much is spent has caused a gap between the need for mental health treatment and its availability.

Researchers noted this gap will not only continue to cause inevitable effects for employers and government, but more so for the “health and wellbeing of people with mental disorders and their families” worldwide. Looking forward, Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, has called for ‘ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.’

_If you are living with anxiety and depression, taking the initiative in finding the proper treatment can help close the disparity gap in tackling mental health. Organizations such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America offer online resources to help you find a therapist in your area, as well as other ways to take action and build support. _

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Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry's clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.