The economic burden of mental disorders in China, 2005-2013: implications for health policy

BMC Psychiatry. 2016 May 11;16:137. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0839-0.


Background: Mental disorders represent a major contributor to disease burden worldwide. We sought to quantify the national economic burden of mental disorders in China.

Methods: We used a prevalence-based, bottom-up approach to estimate the economic costs of mental disorders in 2005-2013 in China. Prevalence data were derived from a national survey. Cost data were derived from the electronic health records of two psychiatric hospitals that consisted of 25,289 outpatients (10%) and inpatients (90%) who were diagnosed with a mental disorder. Cost items included direct medical costs, direct non-medical costs, and indirect costs.

Results: The total annual costs of mental disorders in China increased from $1,094.8 in 2005 to $3,665.4 in 2013 for individual patients, and from $21.0 billion to $88.8 billion for the whole society. The total costs of mental disorders in 2013 accounted for more than 15% of the total health expenditure in China, and 1.1% of China's gross domestic product. If the needs of the professional care for all patients with mental illnesses were fully met, the potential economic costs would have been almost five times higher than the actual estimated costs.

Conclusions: Mental disorders imposed a huge economic burden on individuals and the society in China. A nation-wide strategic action plan for preventing mental disorders and promoting mental health and well-being is in urgent need to reduce the individual and societal costs of mental illnesses.

Keywords: China; Costs; Economic burden; Health policy; Mental disorders; Mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • China
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult