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Untreated Mental Health Results In Lost Earnings

Armen Hareyan's picture

Mental health is not considered as such an important issue as physical health, resulting in billions of dollars of lost earnings.

A study led by a Harvard professor Ronald Kessler examines data from 2002 National Comorbidity Survey Replication involving 4982 Americans ages from 18 to 64. The study estimates that $193.2 billion income is lost in US due to untreated serious mental illnesses (SMI) affecting about 6% of US adults.

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Serious mental illness is defined as a condition of mood or anxiety disorder, or suicidal thoughts lasting for more than 30 days. Study concludes that employees with SMI have 40% lower work efficiency compared to those in healthy mental condition.

Those suffering from SMI earned about $23000 during the past year, meanwhile those with good mental health earned about $40000. 75% of those with mental illnesses kept working despite of health issues, 25% of those with SMI, such as autism or schizophrenia, were totally unable to work, thus earning absolutely nothing.

Ronald Kessler mentions that the figures are worrying, but the actual situation is even worse, and US economy looses even more earning than the mentioned $193.2 billion. This is because the study examines data from 2002, but the actual rates of mental illnesses are higher nowadays. Besides, the study took into account only serious mental illnesses, leaving behind 'minor' conditions, such as depression or an eating disorder, which are also leading to decreased work efficiency. Another issue is, that the study estimated only earning loss, but there are some other expenses occurring because of mental illnesses, such as social security payments, medication expenses, and homelessness.

The study urges the importance on paying equal attention to both physical and psychiatric health. Those with mental health issues need a proper professional treatment. Most employers put health insurance first and allocate too few means to mental health insurance. Currently, only 6.2% of all US healthcare spending is allocated to mental conditions, showing how untreated mental health is.