Mental health

Martin Knapp, Valentina Iemmi (2016)

Please note: this is a legacy publication from CPEC (formely PSSRU at LSE).

in Richard M. Scheffler (ed.) World Scientific Handbook of Global Health Economics and Public Policy: Health Determinants and Outcomes World Scientific, Singapore


Mental health issues can emerge at any age, with incidence particularly common in childhood and young adulthood. The personal and economic consequences can last the life-course, and spillover into family and wider community impacts. Mental health issues are among the most challenging of all illnesses because of the breadth, durability, and complexity of impact.

We describe prevalence, mortality and disability, and discuss challenges arising in the mental health field, each with economic implications. We report expenditure levels, and we discuss issues that arise in financing mental health interventions. Numerous methodological and practical challenges arise when conducting economic evaluation in the mental health field. We describe how evidence from cost-effectiveness and other analyses contribute to better resource utilization decisions.

Throughout the chapter, we argue how most mental health problems are complicated, and have many negative and often distressing consequences for the individuals who are unwell, their families, and the wider society. This complexity often makes them expensive, and the durability and wide sphere of impact add to the economic consequences. Given the pervasive scarcity of resources, decision-makers must think through the economic case for strategies or treatments that might address mental health needs.