Americans Spend Over $200 Billion Treating Mental Health Conditions

Between prescription medication, therapy sessions and hospital visits, the costs of having a mental health condition can add up quickly.

Now, a new report published in Health Affairs shows that not only are mental health conditions expensive, they are the most expensive – costing Americans over $201 billion a year.

The report looked at several different databases and found Americans are spending more on mental illnesses than heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

This is the first time mental health spending has topped the list. In 2009, the last time this report was released, heart disease cost the most.

Charles Roehrig, Ph.D., the report’s author, told Medscape News: “Not only is spending on mental disorders way ahead of heart conditions, the spending is growing unusually fast. We are getting better at preventing heart disease and stroke, but spending on anxiety and depression has grown very rapidly within the mental disorders area.”

Despite the growing costs of mental health care, serious mental illnesses do not get the same level of research funding as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates it will spend $396 million on serious mental illness in 2016. Whereas heart disease, cancer and diabetes will receive $1.3, $5.7 and $1 billion in funding, respectively. Anxiety disorders and depression, the most common mental health conditions, will receive much less – $163 and $406 million.

Largely contributing to rising mental health costs include long-term psychiatric care and nursing homes, adding up to more than 40 percent of mental health spending.

The $201 billion we spend on mental illness does not include the $193 billion in earnings the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) predicts we lose each year due to serious mental illness.

While the findings of this study may not surprise anyone living with a mental health condition, they highlight the need for improvement.

“When all we talk about when we discuss how much we spend on hospital care, physician care, and prescription drugs, we start thinking about how to cut the cost. But as soon as you say we spend a ton of it on mental disorders, or diabetes, or whatever, suddenly the public health community can participate in the discussion. It opens it up to a much broader range of participants,” Roehrig told Medscape.

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