A new study from the World Health Organization (WHO) discovers a link between early-onset mental disorders and adult household income.
The association between early-onset mental disorders and significantly reduced household income was found in high and upper-middle income countries, but not low/lower-middle income countries.
Furthermore, the relationships were consistently stronger among women than men. Experts say that the data clarifies that disability associated with mental disorders is more evident in the most economically developed countries.
The disorders constitute a significant challenge to cognitive, emotional, and social development. As such, researchers were not surprised to learn that earnings and income are substantially reduced among people diagnosed with mental disorders.
Investigators from the WHO surveyed 37,741 respondents, aged 18 to 64, in 22 different countries. They collected information on income earnings, employment status, education, and demographics.
In addition, interviews were conducted to diagnose 15 different mental disorders among participants. The countries were classified by their income level, with 11 high income, five upper-middle income, and six low/lower-middle income.
Researchers found that early-onset mental disorders were associated with significantly reduced household income in high and upper-middle income countries but not low/lower-middle income countries. The findings were more pronounced among women than men.
“These new data suggest that the increased demands of economically advanced societies ‘unmask’ functional deficits that are not evident when the same problems emerge in less developed societies,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.
“These important data highlight the importance of understanding how adaptation breaks down in our society so that rehabilitative and pharmacologic strategies might be developed to help affected individuals adapt.”
Researchers believe policymakers should consider the societal effects of reduced income (among those with mental disorders) when making health care and resource allocation decisions.
Dr. Norito Kawakami, chair of the Department of Mental Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and the study’s lead author, noted that “health policy makers often fail to appreciate the enormous human capital costs associated with untreated early-onset mental disorders.”
“As a result,” said Kawakami, “investments in early interventions for childhood-onset mental disorders are woefully inadequate.”
Dr. Ronald Kessler, from Harvard Medical School and another of the study’s authors, noted that “the amount of lost adult income associated with early-onset mental disorders is so great that the costs of implementing early interventions for these disorders would be more than paid back even if they led to only a small proportional decrease in this lost adult income.”