May 25, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team
In This Article
Poor mental health may cost businesses nearly as much as physical health problems, according to researchers.
A single extra poor mental health day in a month was associated with a 1.84 percent drop in the per capita real income growth rate, resulting in $53 billion less total income each year.
According to a group of academics, poor mental health is among the most expensive illnesses for American workers and may prevent billions of dollars from being added to the nation’s GDP.
1 day of poor mental health = 1. 84 percent decline in per capita income
According to Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and director of the Northeast Regional Centre for Rural Development, a single additional day of poor mental health in a month was linked to a 1.84 percent decline in the per capita real income growth rate and $53 billion less in total income annually, according to an analysis of economic and demographic data from 2008 to 2014.
“This starts to give us an idea of what the gain could be if we did spend more money to help people with poor mental health,” said Goetz, who worked with Meri Davlasheridze, assistant professor and economist, Texas A&M University at Galveston and Yicheol Han, a postdoctoral scholar in agricultural economics, sociology, and education, Penn State.
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What are poor mental health days?
According to the researchers, who present their findings in a recent edition of the Review of Regional Studies, “poor mental health days” relate to days when people describe their mental health as being not good and may include ailments like depression, anxiety, tension, and emotional issues. Diagnosed mental diseases are excluded from the measurement.
The researchers also stated that over the next 20 years, the worldwide economic cost of mental illness is predicted to exceed $16 trillion, which is higher than the cost of any other non-communicable condition. This estimate provides some context for the scope of the issue.
The effect is stronger in rural countries
Rural counties, which are often poorer than metropolitan counties, experience the effect more strongly. In contrast to urban counties, where the association between a bad mental health day and income growth was only.87 percent, rural counties had a decline in income growth of 2.3 percent.
“That’s an interesting finding in itself, too, because poorer counties already have so many factors going against them,” said Goetz. “If poor mental health days have a bigger impact in these poorer counties, it suggests that they would have an even harder time keeping up with the wealthy counties.”
Urban counties might have more resources for people struggling with poor mental health and conditions, according to Goetz. These communities typically have more mental treatment facilities, as well.
Mental health centers inaccessible for rural areas
“We think this difference between urban and rural counties might exist because of the better services that are available for the mentally distressed in the urban counties, which are typically the wealthier counties,” he said. “In an urban county, you might have a mental health center, you may have more resources to tap into to help get you through the bad days, and there may be more mental health professionals. In a rural area, you’re less likely to have access to those types of resources.”
Especially in the harder-hit rural regions, the researchers propose that funding mental health services may be one strategy to reduce the economic implications of poor mental health.
Goetz cautioned warning that the study’s time frame, which was a very turbulent one for the American economy, might have affected the results. He advised researchers to examine the association over longer time periods and in various economic conditions to further explore the impact of bad mental health days on income growth.
The researchers used county-level data from several public sources, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. The mental health day data was drawn from County Health Rankings.
Materials provided by Penn State. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Meri Davlasheridze, Stephan J. Goetz, Yicheol Han. The Effect of Mental Health on U .S. County Economic Growt. Review of Regional Studies, 2018; 48 (2) [abstract]
Penn State. “Poor mental health days may cost the economy billions of dollars.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180730120359.htm>.
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