Cost of mental ill-health in England tops £300 billion


A report developed through the Mental Health Economics Collaborative (a partnership between the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network,  Centre for Mental Health and London School of Economics) has put a staggering figure on the rising cost of mental-ill health.

In 2022, the analysis finds the total economic and social costs of mental ill-health reached £300 billion. This has increased exponentially from previous estimates of £77 billion in 2002-2003 and £119 billion in 2020, in part due to the wider factors that have been considered, which include the effects of presenteeism and staff turnover as a result of mental ill-health.

Of this £300 billion, health and care costs total £60 billion – including support provided by public services, privately-funded care and informal care provided by friends and family. The loss to the economy comes in at £110 billion, with human costs, such as reduced quality of life for those living with mental health difficulties, at £130 billion.

A Parliamentary briefing points out that these costs are similar to the estimated impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy in 2020 (which was £260 billion in 2020 prices) and therefore a comparable economic impact of having a pandemic every year. It argues that given the severity of these costs, there is an urgent need for action, and investment in prevention and support, to protect and promote the public’s mental health, alongside sustained investment in mental health services.


Call for action

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 the recently published ‘A Mentally Healthier Nation’. This identifies three priority areas as:

• Prevention: By addressing social determinants, such as poverty, discrimination and environmental factors, more people can have better mental health. Investing in giving children the best start in life and more powerful public health infrastructure will be key to preventing illness and promoting better health.

• Equality: Discrimination and disadvantage mean that risks to mental health are higher in some groups, and people with mental health difficulties are often treated less well in the social security and justice systems. Building a mentally healthier nation requires concerted action to tackle these inequalities and close the health gaps between different groups.

• Support: Everyone should be able to get timely access to local mental health services when they first need them. By properly resourcing these services, minimising the use of coercion and widening access, especially for children and young people, major improvements in mental health outcomes for people are possible.

Commenting on the report, Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive at NHS Providers says: “This report is another timely reminder of the huge human and financial cost that arises when mental health is not prioritised. More and more people are being seen by mental health services, but there is major mismatch between rising demand for mental health care and the NHS’ ability to deliver it.

“With two million people on mental health waiting lists, Trust leaders know far too many are still not getting the care and support they need, as soon as they need it.”

She adds: “Mental health must be a national priority across government, backed by long-term, sustainable levels of investment in mental health and wider public services that play a crucial role in providing the right care and support for individuals as early as possible.”

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