Mental Illness Increasing Fast, Costing Most

As reported on the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research website, in data taken from a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

The number of Americans under care for depression and other mental illnesses nearly doubled between 1996 and 2006, and the overall cost of treating them jumped by nearly two-thirds, according to the latest News and Numbers from HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

According to the analysis by the federal agency, the number of patients treated for mental disorders, including depression and bipolar disease, increased from 19 million to 36 million. The overall treatment costs for mental disorders rose from $35 billion (in 2006 dollars) to nearly $58 billion, making it the costliest medical condition between 1996 and 2006.

I have a couple of points to make on this survey.

According to this piece on Population Growth Rates at About.Com, It takes nearly 80 years (77.7 years) for the nation’s population to double, and here the population of people labeled mentally ill doubles in 10 years. This is unnatural, disturbing, and perhaps preventable. There are perhaps better ways to deal with the problems one faces in life than by receiving treatment for them.

Changes in treatment approaches, for example, larger staff to patient ratios, could be one of the reasons for this rise in costs. Manipulations by the pharmaceutical industry may be largely responsible for another part of this rise as well. When cost cutting is a great concern for taxpayers and legislators, one must wonder where the money is going to, and what we can do to lower the tab.

Now that you’ve convinced a larger number of people that they have a mental illness, how do you unconvinced them? Psychiatrists and mental health professionals have to make a living I suppose, but so do people in other professions. There is a point at which the mental patient field becomes glutted, and people should seriously think about pursuing other lines of employment.