Australian economic analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reveals the substantial and long lasting costs that could be incurred by untreated perinatal depression and anxiety.
Commissioned by COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence, the report, Valuing Perinatal Mental Health, highlights the potential economic costs for births in 2013 specifically. Figures indicate that the costs for not treating perinatal depression and anxiety are estimated to be well in excess of $538 million for one year. Further, the figures demonstrate the fact that perinatal depression and anxiety can also have effects that are long lasting.
Affected children can experience health costs at the beginning of their lives, through to being more likely to experience depression themselves and adverse impacts to their productivity in adulthood. When calculating ongoing impacts on the mother, child and family, this cost increases to $710 million over a 20-year period.
The report also states that detection and early intervention or assistance to help a mother with perinatal depression can bring significant cost savings. If the prevalence of women affected by perinatal depression was reduced by just 5% (15,500 women) in 2013, total costs in the first two years could be reduced by $147 million.
Dr Nicole Highet, Executive Director of COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence, stated that:
We know that the perinatal period (which includes pregnancy to the first year following the birth of a baby) is the time when women are most at risk of developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Our focus needs to be directed at raising awareness, early detection and early intervention, so that we not only reduce the personal costs for women, men, children and families, but also the economic costs to the community’.
There are also significant implications for workplaces. Women and men experiencing depression and anxiety are likely to miss more days at work compared to their non-depressed counterparts. The cost of this lost productivity is $158 million for mothers in one year if postnatal depression is not addressed ($233 million over 20 years) and $68 million for fathers ($80 million over 20 years).
For all of these reasons, it makes good business and economic sense to focus on raising awareness and understanding of perinatal mental health within the workplace. We know that often these costs are exacerbated by low levels of awareness and understanding about these common conditions. Too often, the common signs of anxiety and depression are misattributed to factors such as hormones, the baby blues or just part and parcel of having a baby. As a result, help-seeking is delayed.
Written by COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence.
COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence, Valuing Perinatal Mental Health, PwC, 2014.