Mental health problems cost Scotland's economy £9 billion a year, report finds

Mental health problems cost Scotland’s economy at least £8.8 billion a year, a new report has found.

About three-quarters of this cost is due to lost productivity and the costs of unpaid carers, according to the findings from the Mental Health Foundation and London School of Economics, supported by Strathclyde University.

The report authors stressed this figure is likely an under-estimate, as it does not account for reduced work performance due to mental illness, costs to criminal justice and housing systems linked to poor mental health, or costs linked to addiction, self-harm or suicide.

The Mental Health Foundation urged the Scottish Government to “revolutionise” its approach to mental health and increase investment with a higher focus on a prevention rather than treatment approach.

Picture: John Devlin

Research shows the potential public health and economic benefit of programmes which allow people to live well, the charity said, for example by addressing perinatal depression, bullying and social isolation in older people.

Other areas highlighted for potential improvement were parenting programmes, psychological and psychosocial support for those with identified needs, and building supportive and inclusive workplaces.

A review of workplace interventions found savings of £5 for every £1 invested in supporting mental health.

Investing in parenting programmes could offer long-term returns of up to £16 for every £1 spent, the report found.

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Lee Knifton, Director of the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said: “Our report reveals the opportunity we have to revolutionise our approach to mental health in Scotland. It’s time to increase investment in population-level prevention of mental health problems.”

He added: “We can’t only treat our way out of the mental health crisis, which is worsening due to the pandemic, and we cannot afford the spiralling costs to both people’s wellbeing and our economy.

"We urge the Scottish Government to pay attention to what the evidence is telling us and commit to prioritising prevention in mental health. A prevention-first approach will not only help break down the barriers to good mental health but empower people to thrive at every stage of their lives and boost our economy in the long run.”

Authors said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the situation to deteriorate.

Costs covered by the analysis included health and social care, informal care, educational support and productivity costs.

Those in the 15-49 age group accounted for 56 per cent of the costs.

The figure across the UK was £118 billion, accounting to five per cent of GDP.

Mental Wellbeing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are already taking forward a range of key actions focused on prevention and early intervention which includes developing a new wellbeing website to support the mental health of Scotland’s people, an online platform for employers to support the promotion of mentally healthy workplaces and support for grassroots community groups through the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, to deliver activities and programmes for adults facing social isolation, loneliness and mental health inequalities.

"In addition to the initial £15 million for this fund, a further £6 million was announced last week to meet the demand for local mental health and wellbeing projects.

He added: “This reflects the importance that the Scottish Government places on promoting good mental health and early intervention for those in distress, ensuring that individuals can access a range of different types of support to match their needs.”

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