Depression costs UK economy 2 billion a year, conference will be told

October 24, 1999

Depression has reached epidemic levels worldwide and at present rates will account for a greater health burden than any other condition apart from heart disease in 20 years, an international conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London will be told today. (28 October)

New figures* show that in the UK alone, depression already costs the economy 2 billion a year the equivalent of 40 each in tax revenue for every man, woman and child. Indirect costs from reduced productivity, failure of relationships and other factors is estimated to amount to at least 8 billion annually.

Depression is so common that one in five will suffer at some point in their lives yet the condition is still so stigmatised that sufferers are often afraid to tell their families and friends, let alone their employees.

Richard Hornsby, director of the Sir Robert Mond Memorial Trust which is organising the conference on behalf of the World Health Organisation and the Harvard Medical School, today appealed for the famous, and others in public life who have suffered from depression, to come out of the closet.

"We urge you to declare yourselves not for your own good but as the only effective way to help reduce the stigma that still surrounds the condition", he said.

This would send a clear signal to the public and to sufferers that depression does not prevent one leading a productive, responsible life. Recent polls** show that employers still regard a history of depression as less desirable than a prison sentence.

He called for better education on depression and other mood disorders. As a society we should no longer believe in depression as a cause of guilt and shame, he said Families and friends, colleagues and employers are still often ill-informed about depression and how to help and often make matters worse. Depression is not unhappiness it is a life-threatening disease, and major depression has a mortality rate of up to 30%.

The conference, which will be addressed by 12 international experts over two days, will discuss latest findings and future strategies to combat the epidemic.

Conference chairman, Professor Arthur Kleinman of Harvard Medical School, New York, said: "Depression will have an increasing impact on societies and economies everywhere but is still regarded with benign neglect by most people in most countries. It affects many more people than cancer and yet attracts a small fraction of the healthcare funding of that calamitous disease. Moreover, the vast percentage of depressed individuals, most of whom are in the developing world, suffer one of the most costly diseases yet have neither the opportunity for diagnosis nor treatment".

Topics under discussion include depression among men and the elderly suicide in young people stress induced violence in pregnancy risk management of depression in the workplace a review of depression in the UK the economic implications of depression, and novel treatments under development.

A highlight will be a debate on the role of new generation antidepressants with opposing views- that the new SSRIs (such as Prozac) must supplant older antidepressants as firstline therapy and, conversely, more traditional treatments.

Below are a few of the facts about depression in the UK, drawn from papers to be presented at the conference by psychiatrists, GPs and medical economists from twelve centres of medical excellence in eight countries.

A Unique Collaboration

Those supporting the Depression A Social and Economic Timebomb Conference include:

The World Heath Organisation
The Institute of Psychiatry
The Royal College of Psychiatry
The Harvard Medical School
The Robert Mond Memorial Trust, the London based charity which is committed to Action Against Depression
International Federation of Health Funds
Major providers of support to depressives, those who care for and support them and those responsible for treating the condition.

* - reference here to the 2 billion and 8 billion figures: Department of Economics City University, London

**- reference here for the poll on employers preference: Mori Poll

For further information and details of the conference timetable, contact:

Richard Hornsby
Mike Dineen
The Sir Robert Mond Memorial Trust
46 Grosvenor Gardens
London, UK SW1W OEB

Bus. No.0171 881 9000
Home. No. 0171 824 1950
Mobile No. 07788 598776

Robert Mond Memorial Trust

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