What’s the economic impact of untreated mental health needs? A recent report titled The Projected Costs and Economic Impact of Mental Health Inequities in the United States from the Deloitte Health Equity Institute and the Meharry School of Global Health examined the projected costs and economic impact of not addressing mental health inequities. 

The report also examined the co-occurrence of untreated mental health conditions with physical health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and disparities related to low income populations and mental health. 

In addition to the socioeconomic disparities related to the prevalence of mental health conditions, lower income individuals are also more likely to have a chronic physical condition associated with a mental health condition (as compared to higher income individuals with a mental health condition). These disparities persist around cost as well. Specifically, lower income individuals are also more likely to “confer additional risks” because cost barriers lead to untreated conditions, which lead to more inpatient stays, outpatient visits, medication expenses, and other cost disparities. 

Given these disparities, the Institute estimated that the physical conditions associated with untreated mental health needs will grow significantly in cost in the coming years. Current expenditures are $9.9 billion and are predicted to grow to $30.8 billion by the year 2040. These projections are inclusive of the cost of disparities. They also found that any savings that would come from eliminating avoidable costs would “eclipse the price of providing necessary care.”

The report outlined a few key solutions: 

  • This crisis should be treated as an emergency and should be addressed cross-sectorally;
  • Private and commercial industries need to engage in solutions around service and delivery;
  • Employers should provide culturally informed resources to help increase workforce diversity and work to ensure employees can seek treatment.

The authors concluded that “an equity-focused approach to mental health is paramount for our collective prosperity,” implying that maternal mental health also demands an equity-focused approach.