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Mental health costs UK £70bn per year, says OECD

Published: 12 Feb 2014

New figures have revealed the crippling impact that mental health issues are having on the UK economy.

According to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), such problems cost the nation as much as £70 billion every single year.

That is equivalent to 4.5 per cent of total gross domestic product, as a result of lost productivity, benefits claims and spending on healthcare.

Common mental health problems include anxiety and depression. Official statistics suggest as many as one in 20 UK adults struggle with generalised anxiety disorder and one in ten will experience depression at some point.

Interestingly, the latter disorder can also affect children, with research showing that around four per cent of UK youngsters aged five to 16 have experienced depression.

In terms of the impact these issues are having on the welfare system alone, the report found approximately one million people claiming Employment and Support Allowance and the same number benefiting from Jobseeker’s Allowance have a mental health disorder that is hindering them from working.

Meanwhile, 370,000 Britons start claiming disability benefit every single year, representing one per cent of the entire working-age population. Comprising two-fifths of all new applications, mental health is the primary cause for this.

As a result of the findings, the OECD is recommending that more is done to tackle the problem head-on, in order to help people to deal with any issues they may have and to return to work.

While it is all very well cutting the welfare handouts themselves, experts believe more needs to be done to address the very causes keeping people from regular employment, to cut the number of people needing to claim benefits in the first place.

The organisation is recommending that UK authorities make greater efforts to promote access to therapy for those with more common mental disorders, and boost resources and incentives for employers to improve outcomes for mental health patients. It is also urging them to consolidate an improvement in the wider understanding of the issue and the impact it has on employability, among other interventions.


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