Poor mental health has a significant economic impact on the health system and the wider economy in Europe, with implications for the potential achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy on economic growth. This brief primer considers what is known about the potential short, mid and longer term economic benefits of actions across the life course focused on mental health promotion, mental disorder prevention and early intervention. Actions that can be undertaken both within and external to the mental health system are highlighted, drawing on recent economic analyses prepared in a UK context, supplemented by data from other parts of Europe and elsewhere.
There is considerable variation in the strength of the evidence base and in the time period required to achieve a return on investment. The most attractive actions include early actions in childhood which can have substantial benefits that last well into adulthood, as well as interventions to promote health in workplaces. Improved job retention rates reduce the need to pay social welfare payments related to employment and disability. Workplace health promotion activities might also reduce the risk of early retirement due to poor mental health.
Economic restructuring is not just associated with the current economic climate it is a constant activity; there may also be interest in interventions to strengthen the mental health and resilience of those who have been made unemployed or are at risk of unemployment or enforced change of role at work. Loss of job, or downsizing of role have been associated with a reduction in mental health; again early actions can reduce the risks of these events and their resource consequences for health care systems.
Other activities examined here include tackling post natal depression, reducing the risk of suicide, early identification of psychosis, promoting the mental health of older people, the use of debt and financial advice services, tackling chronic co-morbid physical and mental health problems, and addressing the issue of medically unexplained systems.
McDaid D (2011) Making the Long-term Economic Case for Investing in Mental Health to Contribute to Sustainability from a Health, Public Sector and Societal Perspective, European Commission. Written under the IMPACT contract to support the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being. Accessiable via http://ec.europa.eu/health/mental_health/docs/long_term_sustainability_en.pdf.