Parity of esteem for mental health is essential

Mental illness accounts for nearly half of disease among under-65s but only 26% of adults with problems receive care

The case for much greater focus on mental health is articulated in an LSE report – How Mental Illness Loses Out In The NHS – published in June 2012. It showed that, among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental ill health: 17% of adults and 10% of children experience mental health problems. The report also shows that mental health problems are generally more debilitating than most chronic physical conditions. For example, on average, a person with depression is at least 50% more disabled than someone with angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes. Mental illness also accounts for nearly 40% of disease – morbidity – compared to 6% for cardiovascular disease; 3% for cancer; and 2% for diabetes. This chimes with other evidence, including mental distress accounting for nearly half of all absenteeism at work and nearly half of all incapacity benefit. In looking at mortality we talk much these days of the malign impact of smoking and obesity – the two modern-day killers – but mental health problems have the same effect on life expectancy as smoking and a much higher impact than obesity.

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