Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Time: Tallying Mental Illness' Costs

From TIME :

mental illness cost to society

It's a debate with which the U.S. workplace has yet to come to grips: should employees' mental and physical health be considered equal in importance?

Corporate America's answer has traditionally been unambiguous, with few employer-backed health plans offering any coverage for workers' mental conditions. But that line has been shifting recently — a change that could save the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost income, a new government-funded study suggests.

Serious mental illnesses (SMIs), which afflict about 6% of American adults, cost society $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, according to findings published in this month's American Journal of Psychiatry. Surveying data from nearly 5,000 participants, researchers determined that people suffering from a SMI — defined as a range of mood and anxiety disorders, including suicidal tendencies, that significantly impaired a person's ability to function for at least 30 days over the past year — earned at least 40% less than people in good mental health. "The results of this study confirm the belief that mental disorders contribute to enormous losses of human productivity," says Ronald Kessler, a Harvard professor of health care policy and lead author of the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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