A study conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School and the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Singapore suggests that symptoms of anxiety and depression in the post-peak pandemic era could be costing the city-state 2.9 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), or nearly SGD 16 billion.
The study found that the use of healthcare resources, absenteeism and reduced productivity significantly burden Singapore's economy.
The study was first published in scientific journal BMC Psychiatry on February 14, 2023; Duke-NUS issued a press release yesterday which stated that the study polled 5,275 Singaporean adults who screened positive for depression and anxiety symptoms via an online panel between April and June 2022.
Of the subjects surveyed, 14.1 per cent reported having symptoms consistent with depression, and 15.2 per cent had symptoms consistent with anxiety.
Further, the results showed that only 32 per cent of the respondents consulted healthcare to treat their mental health conditions over the past three months.
In addition, the study found that the direct cost of healthcare due to depression and/or anxiety averaged SGD 1,050. Full-time or part-time employees miss an average of 17.7 days of work due to anxiety and depression, translating to SGD 4,980 in economic losses annually per person, said the report.
“Greater efforts to encourage undiagnosed cases to seek treatment, expanded access to peer support programmes, increased efforts to improve mental health literacy and reduce stigma, and greater training among community resources such as general practitioners (GPs) and allied health professionals to diagnose and treat mental health symptoms are all part of a successful recovery strategy for the whole population,” said Associate Professor Daniel Fung, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Mental Health, and a co-author of the study.
These estimates are consistent with global findings. The World Health Organization estimates that COVID-19 has directly or indirectly contributed to an increased prevalence of depression and anxiety of 28 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively. Other estimates put the global economic burden of mental health conditions at USD 1 trillion per year.
Recognising the growing mental health crisis, the Singapore government has created a multiagency task force to address the growing mental health pandemic.
Eric Finkelstein, a health economist with Duke-NUS, stated that these findings show that improving mental health will have both health and productivity benefits.
The research team is conducting a similar study focusing on Singapore’s youth and also looking at strategies to increase access to peer support programmes.