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Substance abuse, mental health and the ‘staggering’ economic impact

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Fresh research on brain disorders in Australia has revealed the scale and cost of substance abuse, mental health and neurological conditions on the national economy.  

A new whitepaper, Review of the burden of disease for neurological, mental health and substance use disorders in Australia, has been commissioned by Mindgardens Neuroscience Network and KPMG to determine the impact such disorders have on the Australian economy.

From a cost perspective, the whitepaper found neurological, mental health and substance abuse disorders are costing the Australian economy in excess of $74 billion.

Breaking it down, the research revealed mental health disorders and suicide are costing the nation over $33 billion each year, while neurological disorders are costing over $31 billion, and substance use disorders are costing almost $10 billion.


The scale of the disorders was also highlighted, with the whitepaper determining brain disorders now account for 20.5 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia.

From 2010 to 2017, it noted substance abuse disorders grew by 24.7 per cent, followed by neurological disorders at 15.6 per cent, and mental health disorders by 8.6 per cent.

The largest “burden of disease” is exhibited by opioid use disorders, major depressive and anxiety disorders, stroke and Alzheimer’s/dementia disorders, according to the research.

“Relative to cancer and cardiovascular disease, these disorders do not receive overall research investment commensurate with the burden they impose on the community,” it noted.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Peter Schofield, interim co-CEO of Mindgardens, expressed the need for a stronger response to the statistics surrounding brain disorders.

“Our national research agenda should align to better incorporate and prioritise these disorders and build the specific research capability to address them into the future,” Mr Schofield said.

“Our whitepaper also investigates the potential return on investment for already validated health interventions and indicates a number which, if adopted, would cost-effectively improve health outcomes.

“These include online mental health programs, which are highly effective in treating depression and anxiety. However, the infrastructure to put these treatments into action is weak, so we need to establish an e-mental health infrastructure and shared industry/health models that could then be used to expand these cost-effective health interventions to treat and prevent these and other brain disorders.”

Substance abuse, mental health and the ‘staggering’ economic impact
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