The economic case for investing in the prevention of mental health conditions in the UK

Our mental health is a powerful asset. It is a key that allows us to unlock a wide range of health and social advantages.

As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that all UK governments invest in strategies to prevent mental health problems in all stages of life. This report outlines some key well evidenced interventions which have the potential to achieve this, and through doing so, reduce distress in the population.

This report provides an economic case for the prevention of poor mental health.

The economic case for investing in the prevention of mental health conditions in the UK

In 2019, there were 10.3 million instances of poor mental health in the UK. Among health conditions, depression alone was the third highest ranking cause of disability. This means mental health problems affect the lives of millions of people across the UK. However, in addition to the personal impact on people, families and communities, poor mental health costs a significant amount to the UK economy, through costs related to healthcare, time out of work and the impacts associated with support from informal care.

Our mental health is determined by a range of factors, including our social and economic circumstances. This means that much poor mental health could be avoided by investment in prevention and early intervention measures. This includes actions that address the social and economic circumstances that influence mental health, such as reducing poverty and providing safe green spaces. It can also include measures aimed at the family and individual levels, such as interventions to support parenting and families’ coping strategies.

In this report, we first provide an estimate of the annual costs of mental health problems in the UK. Next, we look at a broad range of evidenced interventions for the prevention of mental health problems.

There are many ways of preventing mental health problems; including preventing them before they have started and preventing them from becoming more severe once they have already emerged. In this report we have focused on ‘primary prevention’, which describes measures that aim to intervene before mental health problems have occurred. The report takes a life-course perspective, as there are risks to mental health from the beginning of life, and then at different transition points, such as starting school, moving from school to further or higher education, then to work, and from work to retirement. We highlight areas where there is strong evidence of both effectiveness in reducing poor mental health and of cost-effectiveness, as well as those we consider to be promising for economic evaluation. We discuss some of the challenges with this evidence base and look at how it can be strengthened.

Was this content useful?