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The economics of mental wellbeing

We are a network that brings together the expertise of leading national and international economists who are passionate about undertaking and promoting much-needed mental health research.

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About us

Poor mental health imposes immense costs on individuals, families, neighbourhoods, workplaces, and health care and welfare systems. Recent estimates place this cost for Australia at up to $60 billion annually, with one-in-five adults suffering from a mental health condition.

We are a network that brings together the expertise of leading national and international economists who are passionate about undertaking and promoting much needed mental health research. We are focused on providing evidence on the economic causes and consequences of poor mental health, the costs of poor mental health on productivity, and the evaluation of policy interventions aimed at improving population mental health and economic participation.

A substantial impact

The links between economic status and poor mental health are substantial, with poor mental health linked to lower educational attainment, unemployment, poverty, homelessness and crime. Mental health is also closely linked with physical health. At the individual level, the costs of mental illness can be extraordinarily large, since disorders often start early in life, are strongly linked across generations, and therefore cast a long shadow.

Poor mental health also has a substantial impact on the nation's productivity, being strongly linked to higher rates of worker absenteeism and presenteeism. Conversely, participation in the workforce and economic participation more broadly promote mental health. Mental health is therefore an economic issue, as well as a medical issue.

Economics and mental health

In October 2018, the Australian government announced a Productivity Commission Inquiry into the impact of mental illness on the economy, and how the government can cost-effectively improve mental health. In the same month, the Victorian government made an election commitment of a Royal Commission into the state’s mental health system.

Members of the network have extensive skills in the economic and statistical analysis of large and complex survey data, and in using advanced methods to address issues of causation. We also have expertise in how financial and non-financial incentives can be used to modify health-related behaviours, and expertise in conducting rigorous economic evaluations of prevention and treatment services.

Economics therefore provides an extensive set of analytical tools that are useful for the discovery of new facts and insights that can aid the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental health conditions.

Associate Professor Gang Chen, Dr Claryn Kung, Senior Research Fellow Sonja Kassenboehmer, Professor Anthony Harris, Associate Professor Nicole Black, Associate Professor Duncan Mortimer and Associate Professor Dennis Petrie.

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