Professor Barbara Sahakian, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of
Cambridge who co-authored the study and President of the British Association
of Psychopharmacology, said: “Anxiety disorders are now very common and are
“While there is more identification of these conditions going on, I think most
of this is an increase due to the lifestyle changes that we lead – the
pressures of daily life.
“Sleep disorders are also getting considerably worse. People who have a lot of
stress and pressure on them at work typically have problems getting to sleep
and once they get to sleep they typically wake up earlier.
“There is some evidence that the increases are partly to do with the stress of
urban life and living around so many people.
“Urban environments tend to have more mental health disorders and that does
suggest that the pressures of that kind of environment will lead to more
The figures emerged in a major study to assess the burden that brain disorders
place on the UK. They estimate that in total they cost the health service
and British economy £112 billion a year.
The researchers used epidemiological data together with official statistics
from around the UK to estimate the prevalence of each condition during 2010.
They then assessed the annual cost for health care for each condition, along
with non-medical costs such as specialist accommodation and social services,
and the indirect costs due to absence from work or early retirement.
By far the greatest financial burden came from dementia, which was found to
cost £18.6 billion a year.
Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar cost around £16 billion a year,
while psychotic disorders cost £14 billion a year. Anxiety disorders cost
£9.8 billion a year.
Lost productivity due to these conditions were by far the largest component of
the costs of these diseases, accounting for just under half, according to
the study, which is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Professor Naomi Fineberg, a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at the
University of Hertfordshire, who was the lead author of the study, “These
costs are probably a gross underestimation as we could not estimate the
indirect costs for all of the conditions and there are some that we had no
data for at all.
“We would argue that improvement for available treatment for the five most
expensive disorders should be a research priority for the NHS.
“There is such a large indirect cost of lost productivity due to these
conditions, it would imply that investment in better treatment would have
scope for reducing the cost longer term.”
The researchers warn that as the population ages and stress levels continue to
rise in work places that make cut backs due to the financial crisis, the
burden of dementia and mental illnesses will continue to rise.
They are calling for the government to place greater emphasis on the
prevention, early detection and treatment of these conditions.
They argue that while cancer costs the country just a third of the sum caused
by brain disorders, it receives three times as much funding for research.
“These conditions have really been the Cinderella of health care,” added
Professor Sahakian. “If we can detect these conditions early, then we can
intervene with treatment earlier which can be more effective.
“There needs to be more research to identify new treatments. If we do not do
something soon we will be overwhelmed by brain disorders.
“Given the ageing population the prevalence of brain disorders is likely to
increase, adding additional pressure to the NHS and social services. We need
to do something now for the future.”
Iain Anstess, director of operations at the new mental health research charity MQ
Transforming Mental Health, said: “With quality research we can develop
new treatment and improve the quality of life for everyone. This data really
shows the need for that.”