The Economics of Mental Health: Seeing it through the Pandemic Perspective


The pandemic's mental health effects will be "long-term and far-reaching," according to the World Health Organization, as experts and officials called for action on Covid-related anxiety and stress. The WHO stated in a statement released at the opening of a two-day meeting in Athens with health ministers from dozens of nations, "Everyone is affected in one way or another."


It noted "anxieties about viral transmission, the psychological impact of lockdowns, and self-isolation," as well as stress from unemployment, financial worries, and social alienation, had contributed to a mental health crisis. According to a large study as reported by NDTV, global cases of melancholy and anxiety increased by more than a quarter in the first year of the pandemic, particularly among women and young adults.


According to the first global estimate of Covid-19's mental health impact, an extra 52 million people will suffer from major depressive disorder by 2020, with an additional 76 million episodes of anxiety. According to the study, which was published in The Lancet medical journal, these indicate a 28- and 26-per cent increase in the two illnesses, respectively.


Since its discovery in late 2019, Covid-19 has killed almost 5 million lives, but researchers believe this number is likely to be greatly underestimated. The hardest-hit countries have the highest mental health burden, with a robust correlation between high Covid-19 case numbers, movement restrictions, and heightened rates of sadness and anxiety.


According to NDTV, "Our findings underscore the urgent need to strengthen mental health systems in order to manage the growing burden of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders around the world," said Damian Santomauro, main study author from the University of Queensland's School of Public Health.


In recent decades, the field of mental health economics has advanced quickly. From an earlier "era of innocence," when the research community seemed to be unaware of resource scarcity, to a period of "unbridled critique," when economists were dismissed as having no legitimate role to play in appraising treatment and care, the profession has progressed noticeably.


Research focus and journal attention have shifted away from simply displaying cost-of-illness (COI) numbers to a more nuanced discussion of findings from cost-effectiveness and other economic studies, for example.


There are also broader economic pressures, driven not only by commercial interests (for example, pharmaceutical corporations) or cost-cutting imperatives (for example, governments), but also by the need to inform a wide range of strategic, therapeutic, preventive, purchasing, and person-centred decisions.


The study adds to earlier research that shows how physician stress affects clinical and organisational outcomes. There have previously been no attempts to set a national figure on burnout in the United States. This is partly due to the difficulty of determining the total economic cost of all the variables. Burnout, for example, has been linked to an increase in medical errors in some studies, but estimating such costs is practically impossible.


According to Thrive Global, Stacy Baker, an administrative assistant in the fast-paced industries of engineering and architecture, was at the top of her game in 2018. Her background in operations management, combined with a B.A. in English Language and Literature, made her the ideal candidate to keep the production and communication wheels going. There was, however, a snag. Each night, work piled up past 8 p.m., requiring her to do the "unholy trinity" of replying to emails, checking messages, and sending out "last-minute" notes well after working hours. It had gotten to the point where having set "working hours" was more of a fantasy than a reality.


According to Gallup, 67 per cent of full-time employees "feel fatigued on the job." While it may appear to be just another part of the job, it has significant financial implications. The research goes on to say that burned-out employees include: 63 per cent more likely to miss work due to illness, 260 per cent more likely to look for new employment, they're 13% less likely to be confident in their abilities. They're 50% less likely to talk about their performance goals with their managers. Worst of all, they're 23 per cent more likely to go to the ER.


They discovered that occupational stress causes at least 120,000 fatalities per year, among other things. The greatest cause of mortality in this calculation is a lack of health insurance (which leads to a lack of treatment), which accounts for 49,000 deaths. Unemployment accounts for 34,000 deaths, while job insecurity and high work demand each account for roughly 30,000 deaths.


Workplace stress, a significant cause of burnout, is estimated to account for around 8% of U.S. healthcare spending and 120,000 deaths per year, according to Harvard professor Joel Goh.


According to the World Economic Forum, chronic disease would cost the global economy more than US$47 trillion between 2010 and 2030, with mental problems accounting for one-third of that cost ($16 trillion). Mental diseases account for 37 per cent of all healthy life years lost to chronic disease and are the major cause of years spent disabled. Despite this difficulty, the annual investment on mental health in the United States is less than $2 per person. As a result, a global economic forum that addresses mental health and its socio-economic consequences on a regional scale is both imaginative and crucial.


Homelessness, poor education and health outcomes, high unemployment and poverty rates are only a few of the economic and social consequences of mental and psychosocial disorders, according to the WHO (WHO, 2010). Social stigma, shortages of specialists, insufficient training of primary health practitioners, inadequate preventative programmes, and restricted access to excellent care or effective medications are all barriers to mental health treatment and recovery.


While there was a considerable range in cost estimates, the researchers estimated that workplace stress costs an additional $125 to $190 billion per year or 5 to 8% of national healthcare spending. The most significant contributor to these costs was high work expectations, which accounted for $48 billion in spending, followed by a lack of insurance, which accounted for $40 billion, and work-family conflict, which accounted for $24 billion.


When expressed in terms of money, maybe then mental health seems to be a very big issue in this ever-developing world. The pandemic made us realise that the world is only fruitful once we have our health in place, and a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. The spike in the mental health issues among the population and especially the younger ones might give a dangerous signal of another pandemic, a mental health pandemic, and perhaps that’s the last thing we want to see as humans.


References

  1. https://mhi.org.in/media/insight_files/aagt12i2p80.pdf

  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wps.20692

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277955/

  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180730120359.htm

  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953618306658

  6. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-economic-cost-of-physician-burnout

  7. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/national-health-costs-could-decrease-if-managers-reduce-work-stress

  8. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/who-loses-in-the-economics-of-burnout/

  9. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/who-warns-of-long-term-covid-impact-on-mental-health-2492528

  10. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/coronavirus-causes-steep-rise-in-depression-anxiety-study-2569221


Written by Abhivyakti Mishra (m.abhivyakti@gmail.com)

Edited by Mehak Vohra