The Impact of Mental Illness on the London Economy

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Each incident of personal illness or injury has ripple effects on our entire community – the impact ranging from the emotional, to the familial, to the financial sphere.

For those of us who have experienced mental illness, periodically or over the long-term, the experience is actually not too different from that of the person who’s contracted respiratory infection. It requires the afflicted:

  • To seek intensive medical intervention from specialised professionals,
  • To submit to a period of recovery where regular daily responsibilities (employment, community tasks) are halted,
  • To commit to a change in lifestyle suited to preventing relapse, supported by their family members and loved ones.

No Man’s an Island

Conditions of ill health, both psychological and physical, does not only have a significant impact on the lives of the ‘patient’. During the journey from illness to recovery and maintenance of wellbeing, our loved ones invest their emotional and financial resources, social and health care organisations enlist their services, employers accommodate and co-workers take over the reigns.

No man (or woman) is an island, and whether we like it or not, our wellbeing as citizens of London is intrinsically entwined.

Mental illness affects almost every aspect of a person’s life, from their education and employment to their physical health and the quality of their relationships. Across the population, the net effects of these wider impacts substantially affect London’s economy, infrastructure and population. Because of this, mental health is not simply an issue for health and social care. It is an issue for everyone.

The Invisible Cost of Mental Health to London’s Economy

Recent statistics released by the office of the Mayor of London, illustrates the psychological pressure that the community of London is experiencing:

  • 1 in 4! In any given year, an estimated 1 in 4 individuals will experience a diagnosable mental health condition.
  • 1 in 3! A third of these will experience two or more conditions at once.
  • 1 in 10 kids! Mental ill health impacts the most vulnerable in our community with at least 1 in 10 children thought to have a clinically significant mental health problem, meaning 111,000 young people in London.

And, despite the frightening number of Londoners suffering from cancer and cardiovascular disease, mental ill health currently holds the position of the single largest source of disease.

The Financial Impact of Mental Health

To illustrate the extent to which the quality of life and wellbeing of the individual affects our entire society, let’s take a look at the financial impact of mental illness on government resources and business.

The wider impacts of mental ill health result in around £26 billion each year in total economic and social costs to London. (London Mental Health Report)

The Financial Effects of Mental Illness on Government Resources

  • Education. The impacts of childhood psychiatric disorders cost London’s education system approximately £200 million per year.
  • Social Care. Forty-five per cent of children aged 5 to 17 experience a mental health disorder, and 65,000 older Londoners experience dementia (a figure that is expected to almost double over the next 30 years). In social care costs alone, London boroughs spend around £550 million a year treating mental disorders, and another £960 million is spent each year on benefits to support people with mental ill health.
  • Physical Health. Mental health issues also prevent physical health conditions from being addressed adequately. Roughly £1 in every £8 spent on long-term health conditions can be linked to poor mental health, which translates to an additional £2.6 billion in treatment costs each year in London.
  • Close to £7.5 billion is spent each year to address mental ill health in the London community. This includes spending on health and social care to treat illness, benefits to support people living with mental ill health and costs to education services and the criminal justice system.
  • Loss of Productivity. However, these costs are only a part of the total £26 billion lost to London each year through such issues as reduced productivity and reduced quality of life.

The Financial Effects of Mental Illness on Private Business

  • Mental ill health hampers London businesses each year by limiting employee productivity and reducing the potential workforce.
  • £920 million alone is lost annually to sickness absences in the city, and a further £1.9 billion is lost to reduced productivity.
  • The costs extend more widely, though, to amount to a staggering sum total of £10.4 billion lost each year to London business and industry.

Evidence-based Treatments and Therapies

The terrifying news is that the mental illness has reached epidemic proportions, putting strain on every aspect of our personal, communal and economic wellbeing.

The terrific news is that the accumulated wealth of knowledge and technologies in the field allow us to manage, treat and prevent a wider range of mental and neurological illnesses more efficiently than ever before.

“We have made huge strides in developing effective treatments for most of the mental disorders and further improvements in treatments are likely thanks to the advances in the understanding of the brain functioning and psychosocial factors. With the current treatments, most persons with mental, brain or behavioural disorders can become functioning and productive members of the community and live normal lives.”

World Mental Health Organization 

Become a Champion of Mental Health

The debilitating symptoms of psychological illness are often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness. Our human compassion alone should therefore be enough to encourage us in our personal capacity to do whatever we can to improve the quality of life of each affected individual. The financial impact on our economic output means that mental health and wellbeing demands to be considered a business priority as well.

While evidence-based therapies and treatments are available to redress the epidemic, we’ll need the support of the entire community to promote awareness, fight stigma, and fund the programs that connect services to people. Mental illness affects us all, and it should be up to all of us to turn the tide.

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