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 Study Puts Price Tag on Mental Health Costs for Chronic Care Needs

Results from a new study published in the JAMA Network suggests that mental health disorders are tied to substantially higher resource utilization and health care costs among those patients with chronic diseases.
The difference in cost runs to the tune of more than $15,000 for each person with a diagnosed mental disorder as well as a chronic disease over a three-year period compared to those with a chronic condition but without a mental disorder, the study said. Researchers in Canada said among those studied, individuals with a mental health disorder accumulated total three-year-adjusted health care costs of $38,250 versus $22,280 for people without such disorders.
“Having a mental health disorder was associated with significantly higher resource use, including hospitalization and emergency department visit rates, length of stay, and hospitalization for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions,” the authors of the report said.

The study, “Association of Mental Health Disorders With Health Care Utilization and Costs Among Adults With Chronic Disease,” could be useful information for providers in the long term care services space, and should be the basis for further examination of these costs differences, researchers noted.

“There is a recognized association between mental and physical health,” the study said. “For example, mortality in cancer, diabetes, and following a heart attack is higher for patients with depression. Further, compared with the general population, people with chronic disease have higher rates of mental health disorders, while people with mental health disorders have a greater risk of developing chronic diseases.”
Authors said chronic diseases are projected to constitute 60 percent of the global disease burden by next year, and when mental health disorders are added to that level, the costs rise higher. 

“Substance abuse disorders also contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. In 2010, mental and substance use disorders represented 7.4 percent of the total disease burden worldwide; were responsible for more of the global burden than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or diabetes; and were the leading global cause of all non-fatal burden of disease,” the authors said. 

To arrive at their conclusions, the authors collected data from nearly 1 million adults living in the Canadian province of Alberta from April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2015, who had a chronic disease, such as asthma, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease, or chronic kidney disease.

To weigh the differences in costs, those with mental health disorder like depression, schizophrenia, alcohol use disorder, or drug use disorder were placed in a separate cohort from those without such diagnoses.

See the report at www.jamanetwork.com.
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