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Mental Illness and Unhappiness

  • Dan Chisholm
  • Richard Layard
  • Vikram Patel
  • Shekhar Saxena

This paper is a contribution to the second World Happiness Report. It makes five main points: 1. Mental health is the biggest single predictor of life-satisfaction. This is so in the UK, Germany and Australia even if mental health is included with a six-year lag. It explains more of the variance of life-satisfaction in the population of a country than physical health does, and much more than unemployment and income do. Income explains 1% of the variance of life-satisfaction or less. 2. Much the most common forms of mental illness are depression and anxiety disorders. Rigorously defined, these affect about 10% of all the world's population - and prevalence is similar in rich and poor countries. 3. Depression and anxiety are more common during working age than in later life. They account for a high proportion of disability and impose major economic costs and financial losses to governments worldwide. 4. Yet even in rich countries, under a third of people with diagnosable mental illness are in treatment. 5. Cost-effective treatments exist, with recovery rates of 50% or more. In rich countries treatment is likely to have no net cost to the Exchequer due to savings on welfare benefits and lost taxes. But even in poor countries a reasonable level of coverage could be obtained at a cost of under $2 per head of population per year.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1239.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1239
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  1. Richard Layard & Andrew E. Clark & Francesca Cornaglia & Nattavudh Powdthavee & James Vernoit, 2014. "What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life‐course Model of Well‐being," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(580), pages F720-F738, November.
  2. Richard Layard & David Clark & Martin Knapp & Guy Mayraz, 2007. "Cost-benefit analysis of psychological therapy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19673, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. David McDaid & A-La Park, 2011. "Investing in mental health and well-being: findings from the DataPrev project," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 39875, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Johnston, David W. & Schurer, Stefanie & Shields, Michael A., 2011. "Evidence on the Long Shadow of Poor Mental Health across Three Generations," IZA Discussion Papers 6014, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A., 2011. "Destined for (Un)Happiness: Does Childhood Predict Adult Life Satisfaction?," IZA Discussion Papers 5819, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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