Mental Illness Slowed Flow of Productive Juices

Mental illness responsible for many years of productivity lost to disability

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Mental illness and substance abuse can keep people from being able to work. Better treatment services may help boost productivity among persons with a mental health disorder.

A recent large-scale study looked at how mental illness and substance use disorders lower the productivity of people all across the globe.

The results of the study showed that depression and anxiety, as well as drug and alcohol use, were responsible for the vast majority of years of life lost to mental health disability worldwide.

"Seek treatment for substance abuse."

Harvey A. Whiteford, MD, professor in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia, led a team of fellow researchers to investigate illness and death from mental illness and substance use disorders.

Based on data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, the researchers looked at 20 mental illnesses and substance use disorders in 187 countries.

The researchers used three measures to calculate the global burden of disease: productive years of life lost due to disability, years of life lost from early death and years lived with disability.

Mental illness and substance use disorders were responsible for 7.4 percent of all of the years of productivity lost due to any disability.

Years of productivity lost to mental illness and substance use disorders were split up as follows:

  • 40.5 percent from depressive disorders
  • 14.6 percent from anxiety disorders
  • 10.9 percent from illegal drug use disorders
  • 9.6 percent from alcohol use disorders
  • 7.4 percent from schizophrenia
  • 7.0 percent from bipolar disorder
  • 4.2 percent from developmental disorders
  • 3.4 percent from childhood behavioral disorders
  • 1.2 percent from eating disorders

As a reflection of population growth and aging, the global burden of disease for mental illness and substance use disorders increased by 37.6 percent from 1990 to 2010.

Mental illness and substance use disorders were responsible for 183.9 million years of productivity lost to disability, 8.6 million years of life lost to early death and 175.3 million years lived with disability.

The researchers estimated that these losses in life and productivity could potentially result in the loss of 16 trillion dollars in the next 20 years in the US alone, which is equal to 25 percent of the global gross domestic product in 2010.

The study authors recommended improved support services for people with mental illness and substance use disorders to help relieve some of this global burden of lost production.

"The good news is that these mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, and substance abuse) can be managed through different lifestyle changes, such as exercise, improving diet, and getting enough sleep at night, all of which are typically missing from the average American's life.  Though these changes in lifestyle may not cure the problem, they will make it easier to deal with the issues at the root of the problem," Cliff Hamrick, LPC, a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Austin, Texas, told dailyRx news. 

This study was published in August in The Lancet.

The Queensland Department of Health and the National Health, Medical Research Council of Australia, the National Research Centre-University of New South Wales, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Toronto, and the US National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provided funding for this project. No commercial relationships with funding partners were reported by the study authors.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2013
Last Updated:
August 28, 2013