Does mental illness affect economic development? 

Does mental illness affect economic development? 

mental illness

Mental illness is the mental health condition that effect a large number of people from all age groups irrespective of caste, gender, religion and impacts various different areas of life, such as social (impaired relationships with family, friends or at work and with education), psychological, financial, cultural, socio-economical, including the economic area of development. Mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, mood disorders or any other types of illnesses and disorders reduces the quality of life by decreasing the motivation level of an individual.

The Pervasive Impact of Mental Illness

It severely affects and deteriorates a person’s physical and mental well-being, often leading to the risk of suicide when the illness goes undiagnosed or untreated. Furthermore, it is believed that mental illnesses not only impact a small group of predisposed individuals, but also constitute a major public health problem affecting a large number of people in society. There is also a belief that individuals residing in middle and high-income countries are more prone to experiencing at least one mental health condition or illness during their lifetime compared to those in low-income countries.

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Mental illnesses cause more economic damage/distress as compared to the somatic diseases like cancer, diabetes or heart diseases. Mental health conditions have risen to the extent that observers can witness every other person suffering from various conditions. These illnesses hugely disrupt their way of living and may offer less opportunities in education, employment and physical health outcomes as compared to the healthy ones. Even economic factors like unemployment, hunger, lack of or insufficient basic resources, poverty, infrastructure could lead to stress and anxiety which further takes appearances of mental illnesses.

Various mental illness factors

Mental illnesses hinders or effects the economic development due to various reasons such as the cost or expenses of the whole treatment of illnesses, productivity loss, income loss, limited definitions of disorders and it’s diagnosis, utilization of appropriate and suitable services, psychological testing or tools, visiting clinics for regular checkups or even hospitalization in severe cases, overspending or tight budget for medications.

Other factors which leads to improper care and treatment for mental illnesses may included lack of infrastructure, unawareness regarding mental health conditions and the stigmas associated with mental health. The stigmas leads to a repulsiveness by an individual to go seek mental health professionals in case of uneasiness, this then leads to self isolation, discrimination and the false beliefs or prejudices.

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Two types of factors that influences mental illnesses

  • Direct factors: Direct factors of mental illnesses such as treatment costs, hospital expenses, mental health services and therapy sessions affects the economic development directly of an individual. There is a reduced quality of relationships with family, work or education.
  • Indirect factors: Indirect factors include low productivity or the productivity loss which happens to take place due to absenteeism i.e. absence of more employed people due to increased mental illnesses, disability and decreased work performances. Since mental illnesses largely impacts one’s state of mind, people no longer able to work efficiently, which leads to increase in number of leaves from the work or school. This leads to receiving low incomes at work and sufficiently low scores and inability to compete with other people at school or work settings.

Consequences of untreated mental illnesses on economic development

Limited access to mental healthcare professionals, both qualitatively and quantitatively, hinders the provision of accurate and appropriate diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions, particularly in rural areas. Individuals experience increased suffering, and they face limited resources for seeking a cure.

Untreated mental illnesses for a prolonged period may leads to premature death of an individual suffering from it, which have a direct impact on the economic development of the country. Premature deaths leads to increased mortality rates, which reduces the general population size of the country or state, thereby reducing the number of employed workers, or the ones who seems to work and limited number of taxpayers. These factors have bad consequences on the economy, as there are less number of Individuals adding value to the economy. As a result, there happen to be a decline in the economic development as well as other areas.

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Few examples showing the effect of mental illness on economic development

According to a study conducted in 2008, the most recent, untreated mental illness costs at least $193 billion every year to US. The major reason for this is the shortage of health care workers and appropriate guidance regarding mental health and illnesses. Even if a person gets the required prescriptions of Medications and guidance for the insurances, there is still the problem of money to buy them. People says the therapy sessions and the psychological testing’s costs a lot, which some of them are unable to afford.

The economic burden can be seen to rise up to 4% of GDP in the context of mental health. In India, the Prevalence rate of mental disorders is nearly 9.5 to 370 per 1000 people, which shows the high need for effective interventions and support systems for mental health to address the particular disorders. The most common mental health disorders in India are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders and schizophrenia.

Also Read: Inflation And Mental Health

Relationship between mental illnesses and economic wealth

Individuals with low income are highly susceptible to mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression due to increasing stress. In the US, the ones having decreased income or socio-economic status mostly saw the study, the substance abuse and attempts of suicide. Nevertheless, conditions of poverty and homelessness are strongly associated with other mental illnesses, such as psychotic disorders.


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