Mental health issues ‘cost the Scottish economy £8.8bn every year’

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MENTAL health problems cost the Scottish economy at least £8.8billion every year, researchers have calculated, as the government was urged to increase spending on measures to prevent problems from developing.

Almost three-quarters of the economic hit is due to lost productivity of people living with mental health issues and costs incurred by unpaid informal carers, according to the report commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation.

The report’s authors said the multi-billion cost to the economy is likely to be an underestimate of the true price once factors such as declining work performance, increased burdens on criminal justice and housing systems, and those associated with addiction, are considered.

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Lee Knifton, director of the charity in Scotland, said it was “time to increase investment in the prevention of mental health problems at population level”.

He added: “We cannot just deal with our recovery from the mental health crisis, which is worsening due to the pandemic, and we cannot afford the rising costs to people’s well-being and our economy.

“We urge the Scottish Government to heed what the evidence tells us and commit to prioritizing mental health prevention. A prevention-focused approach will not only help break down barriers to good mental health, but will allow people to thrive at every stage of their lives and boost our economy over the long term.

The report, released today, argues for a prevention-based approach, which would both improve mental well-being while reducing the economic cost.

The charity, which worked on the report with the London School of Economics with support from the University of Strathclyde, said to put the economic cost of poor mental health into context, the total NHS budget in Scotland in 2020/21 was £15.3 billion.

In the UK, the economic hit is at least £117.9billion – around 5% of GDP – and 10.3 million cases of mental health issues have been recorded over a one-year period.

The report’s lead author, David McDaid, an associate professional researcher in health policy and health economics at the London School of Economics, said their calculation of the economic impact was a “conservative estimate”.

He added: “What is clear is that there are strong economic arguments for investing in effective preventive measures, particularly at a time when the mental health of the population may be particularly vulnerable due to the pandemic. of Covid-19.

“This requires further sustained and coordinated action, not just in the health and social services sector, but across government.”

Kevin Stewart, the minister for mental wellbeing at Holyrood, said “prevention and early intervention are key priorities which we pursue in our approach to mental health and wellbeing”, and added that the The Scottish Government’s Covid-19 mental health transition and recovery plan underpins the effort. .

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