Scientists warn of overwhelming costs of mental illness

LONDON Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:02pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Health systems could be "overwhelmed" by the costs of coping with mental illnesses such as dementia, depression and addiction if nothing is done now to boost investment in research, leading neuroscientists said on Thursday.

Publishing a study that put the estimated costs of brain disorders in Britain alone at more than 112 billion pounds ($172 billion) a year, they said mental illness research needed to attract the same funding levels as illnesses such as cancer and heart diseases to be able to reduce the burden.

"No group of chronic diseases costs the world more than brain disorders," said Barbara Sahakian, a professor at Cambridge University and president of the British Association of Psychopharmacology.

She told reporters that with a third of the adult population suffering from a mental disorder every year and ageing populations increasing that proportion, "if we don't do something soon ... we will be overwhelmed by brain disorders".

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that in 2010, there were around 45 million diagnoses of brain disorders in Britain.

The diagnosed illnesses included more than 8 million cases of anxiety disorder and nearly 4 million cases of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Annually, the five most costly disorders in terms of medicines, health care and indirect costs such time off work and as loss of productivity were dementia, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, addiction and anxiety disorders.

A Europe-wide study published in 2011 put the total costs of brain disorders at almost 800 billion euros ($1 trillion) and said the region was facing a political, social and financial "ticking bomb" as more people fall prey to mental illnesses.

Some big pharmaceutical companies, in Europe particularly GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, have been backing away from investment into research on how the brain works and affects behavior because they say it is not profitable enough. That puts the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience.

David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said the situation required a coordinated effort at European and national levels to change policymaker and public attitudes to funding mental health research.

"Diseases need to be ranked according to their economic burden," he said, noting that funding for dementia research in Britain is around 50 million pounds ($77 million) per year, less than a 10th of the annual funding given to cancer research, which gets around 590 million pounds.

"We have an enormous disparity between research investment and the scale of the disorders," he said.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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Comments (2)
MargaD wrote:
There wouldn’t be so many ‘brain disorders’ in the population if our governments didn’t only pass policies for those that are wealthy, cutting basic care and services to those that have less resources. Lack of faith in any meaningful future with dignity, not to mention housing and food, is the biggest cause of ‘brain disorders’, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction, which many times go hand in hand.

Jul 25, 2013 5:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Nick_LF wrote:
@MargaD I find your comment to be both ignorant of the root causes of mental illnesses such as the ones you mentioned and woefully insulting to those who suffer from them. There is no actual correlation between any rise or fall in mental illness and any kind of societal state be it high or low, and that line of thought doesn’t do anything to help the problem. Sure, it may dictate whether or not any resources are allocated to it, but it is NOT the cause. It boils down genetics and to both actual/ figurative environments.

No “lack of faith” or loss of dignity. Nothing to do with being well off or in poor circumstances. All levels of society suffer… in fact, your statement is backwards. The chemical imbalance in the brain makes it so that Anxiety causes us to worry about our situation, Depression causes a loss of hope in the future, and Addiction goes hand in hand with Anxiety and Depression.

I suffer from all three of the illnesses you mentioned and it won’t be until that train of thought is eliminated that the real issue can be addressed.

Jul 26, 2013 5:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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