Mental Health

This is the surprisingly large economic dividend from investing in better mental health

A Businessman is silhouetted as he stands under the Arche de la Defense, in the financial district west of Paris. Image: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Emma Luxton
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Mental Health?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Mental Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Mental Health

There are more than 615 million people suffering from depression or anxiety around the world, an increase of nearly 50% from 1990, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Improving treatment for depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental health disorders, would not only have health benefits but also boost the global economy.

The study, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), found that without global improvements to mental health care, 12 billion working days will be lost to depression and anxiety each year up to 2030. This amounts to an annual loss to the global economy of $925 billion.

Lost productivity attributable to depression and anxiety disorders at current treatment coverage, by country income level (US$ billion, 2013) Image: The Lancet Psychiatry

The study assessed 36 countries and looked at treatment costs and likely health outcomes for the period 2016-2030. It factored in a modest improvement of 5% in productivity as a result of treatment.

On average governments spend just 3% of their health budgets on mental health according to the WHO. In low-income countries the figure is just 1%, rising to 5% in high-income countries.

Image: WHO

The research found that every $1 invested in improving treatment for depression and anxiety would generate a $4 return for the economy.

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said in a statement: “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and well-being; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense, too.”

She added that finding ways to make sure people have access to mental health services, wherever they live, is important.

The cost of scaled-up treatment over the next 15 years would be $147 billion. This would result in a 5% improvement in labour force participation, worth $399 billion, as well as an improved health return of $310 billion.

10% of the global population is affected by metal health problems.

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, says that the study shows that current mental health services are not good enough.

“This is not just a public health issue; it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Mental HealthEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

A generation adrift: Why young people are less happy and what we can do about it

Andrew Moose and Ruma Bhargava

April 5, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum