Here is some really depressing news – but for once it has a happy ending.

Apparently, 16 per cent of all adults in the UK suffer from a diagnosable condition of clinical depression or anxiety. And according to a report published yesterday by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, (NIESR) mental illness causes as much misery in Britain as poverty.

Of course, economic statistics don’t tend to allow for happiness or satisfaction – the assumption is that there is a direct correlation with GDP per capita. So, in the interests of economics, let’s forget about the benefits of easing mental disorder from a social perspective, and just consider the economic benefits – and here is the real reason to celebrate. According to the NIESR study, the benefits to the economy of providing psychological therapy could actually be greater than the costs.

Right now, there are not enough therapists to treat the six-million people who are suffering from clinical depression or anxiety disorders. And yet, it is estimated that the cost of successfully treating patients is quite low. Therapy usually costs around £750 per person, and recovery rates usually run at around 50 per cent.

And yet, unemployment amongst those with mental disorders is high. According to the Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, employment amongst people who are mentally ill is 51 per cent, compared to 74 per cent amongst those who are well.

Using data produced by NICE (National Institute of Health and Excellence), the NIESR reckons that treatment will mean the average person with mental illness, would work an extra 6.49 months over 2 years, and 13.08 months over 5 years.

Getting its slide rule out, NIESR reckons the cost of treatment is £750, but that within two years society as a whole would have enjoyed £1,100 more output.

And then there’s the cost to government. Incapacity benefit costs are around £750 per month; throw in savings on income support and housing and council tax benefit, and a £300 saving in medical costs, and the NIESR reckons the government will enjoy £1,200 in savings within two years of providing therapy. So that’s £750 more costs, £1,200 less cost; it makes good economic sense.

But supposing you really could put a value on the resulting reduction in suffering. Let’s assume that each quality life year is worth around £30,000. NIESR did some quick sums, and found that within two years, society would see a benefit worth £3,300 within two years, just through a reduction in suffering.

So the bottom line is this. The NHS should take on an extra 8,000 extra psychological therapists over the next six years. If you like this article, why not register for our daily newsletter? Or if you already receive the newsletter, then start spreading the news and tell your friends and colleagues. To register visit this link

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