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Mental Health Inequities Cost the US More Than $477 Billion Today and Could Increase to $14 Trillion by 2040 if Unaddressed, According to Analysis by Deloitte and Meharry School of Global Health

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Findings reveal a growing public health crisis with unsustainable health care costs

NEW YORK, May 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — 

Key takeaways

  • The projected cumulative cost of mental health inequities is estimated to amount to $14 trillion by the year 2040.
  • The U.S. currently spends an estimated $477.5 billion annually in avoidable and unnecessary expenses related to mental health inequities.
  • Under the current conditions, the U.S. is estimated to spend $1.26 trillion per year by 2040 on costs related to mental health inequities.
  • Emergency department utilization related to mental health inequities costs an estimated $5.3 billion annually, with projections suggesting a potential rise to approximately $17.5 billion by 2040 if left unaddressed.

Why this matters 
Mental health conditions, challenges and illnesses are often the invisible counterpart to the much more visible chronic diseases that impact many people in the United States. Deloitte and the Meharry School of Global Health’s analysis underscores the urgent need for an equity-centered approach across government, health care and business sectors to help mitigate the economic burden created by mental health inequities and the chronic diseases they exacerbate, and to improve overall well-being.

Lower-income individuals bear a disproportionate burden of chronic conditions, exacerbating their economic challenges, while racial and ethnic disparities persist in health care, as this report’s analysis demonstrates. Each of these key issues not only leads to unnecessary health care spending but also contributes to productivity loss, especially among marginalized groups that face higher rates of unemployment due to mental health challenges.

Key quotes

“As a practicing physician, I see the correlation between how chronic conditions can exacerbate mental health challenges and economic strains that impact my patients’ overall health. With my patient experiences coupled with the findings from this report, there’s no denying that there is an urgent need to make mental health more visible and prioritize actions to improve health outcomes and reduce costs associated with managing these conditions.”

— Jay Bhatt, D.O., M.P.H., M.P.A., managing director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and Health Equity Institute

“This report builds on my 2022 study examining the past economic burden of mental health inequities in the United States. In recognizing the compelling correlation between brain health and chronic conditions, we determined that in order to have a more complete picture of the costs of mental health in America, we needed to understand the present and future costs of inequities in mental health and physical health conditions. We urge employers, clinicians, researchers, advocates, policymakers and community leaders to unite in catalyzing actionable solutions to address these pervasive and increasingly costly mental health inequities. Now is an opportune moment to proactively shape the mental health landscape for millions by addressing this pressing issue and intentionally developing cost-effective community-designed interventions.”

Daniel E. Dawes, J.D., founding dean, School of Global Health at Meharry Medical College

Correlations between chronic conditions and mental health
The Deloitte and Meharry School of Global Health analysis found:

  • At nearly all ages, those with mental health conditions have a higher prevalence of chronic conditions.
  • Lower-income individuals with mental health conditions have higher prevalence of chronic conditions compared to higher-income individuals.
  • Among those with mental health conditions, higher prevalence rates of diabetes, HIV AIDS, and stroke are observed for lower-income populations when compared to higher-income individuals.

The path for a healthier future
Addressing equity in mental health is an important factor underpinning any success society will have in reducing inequities in mental health, improving chronic disease management, and curtailing the rise of excess health spending. This report examined the evidence to determine if it is possible to reduce the impact of mental health inequities, and if so, where leaders can find the most leverage to do so.

The report found that significant cost savings can be achieved by focusing on three areas: increasing access to high-quality mental health care for underserved populations (an estimated 57% currently face difficulty accessing care); integrating mental health care into chronic disease management programs; and investing in preventative mental health services to identify and address issues early.

For communities that suffer from worse mental health, closing the gap in access to quality mental health care could also lead to a considerable decrease in the prevalence of premature death, emergency department visits, productivity loss due to cardiovascular disease, and all the costs associated with its management.

The full report and findings are available here: “The projected costs and economic impact of mental health inequities in the United States.”

Methodology
To gain a broader understanding of the economic burden of mental health inequities in the United States, the School of Global Health at Meharry Medical College and the Deloitte Health Equity Institute conducted an equity-focused quantitative analysis of data from Komodo’s Healthcare Map, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database, and the CDC’s National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. This analysis expands on the methodology utilized within Thomas LaVeist, Darrell Gaskin, and Patrick Richard’s health disparities research described in the 2009 report, The Economic Burden of Health Inequalities in the United States. and expands on the 2022 report, the Economic Burden of Mental Health Inequities in the United States by Daniel E. Dawes and Christian M. Amador. While previous analyses have quantified the impact of mental health on productivity, they have not attempted to quantify the cost due to inequities specifically. Quantifying productivity lost as a result of inequities in mental health outcomes by race and ethnicity enabled this analysis to achieve a nuanced view of the interconnected relationship between mental and physical health.

About the School of Global Health at Meharry Medical College
The School of Global Health at Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is rooted in Meharry’s nearly 150-year legacy of leading on health equity issues. As the nation’s first and only School of Global Health we are committed to preparing the next generation of global health learners and leaders to find solutions and respond to our communities’ complex and evolving health challenges with a global perspective. A hub for research and academic innovation in global health, mental and behavioral health, population health, public health, environmental health, health communications, social and political determinants of health, and more, the School is a trusted resource for health equity approaches and actionable solutions to the inequities affecting our most vulnerable, under-resourced, and marginalized communities. Learn more at MeharryGlobal.org.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit and assurance, tax and legal, consulting, financial advisory, and risk advisory services to nearly 90% of the Fortune Global 500® and thousands of private companies. Our people deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in capital markets, enable clients to transform and thrive, and lead the way toward a stronger economy, a more equitable society, and a sustainable world. Building on its 175-plus year history, Deloitte spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s approximately 457,000 people worldwide make an impact that matters at www.deloitte.com.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

SOURCE Deloitte

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