The Economic Burden of Adults with Major Depressive Disorder in the United States (2010 and 2018)

Pharmacoeconomics. 2021 Jun;39(6):653-665. doi: 10.1007/s40273-021-01019-4. Epub 2021 May 5.


Background: The incremental economic burden of US adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) was estimated at $US210.5 billion in 2010 (year 2012 values).

Objective: Following a similar methodology, this study updates the previous findings with more recent data to report the economic burden of adults with MDD in 2018.

Method: This study used a framework for evaluating the incremental economic burden of adults with MDD in the USA that combined original and literature-based estimates, focusing on key changes between 2010 and 2018. The prevalence rates of MDD by sex, age, employment, and treatment status over time were estimated based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The incremental direct and workplace costs per individual with MDD were primarily derived from administrative claims data and NSDUH data using comparative analyses of individuals with and without MDD. Societal direct and workplace costs were extrapolated by multiplying NSDUH estimates of the number of people with MDD by the direct and workplace cost estimates per patient. The suicide-related costs were estimated using a human capital method.

Results: The number of US adults with MDD increased by 12.9%, from 15.5 to 17.5 million, between 2010 and 2018, whereas the proportion of adults with MDD aged 18-34 years increased from 34.6 to 47.5%. Over this period, the incremental economic burden of adults with MDD increased by 37.9% from $US236.6 billion to 326.2 billion (year 2020 values). All components of the incremental economic burden increased (i.e., direct costs, suicide-related costs, and workplace costs), with the largest growth observed in workplace costs, at 73.2%. Consequently, the composition of 2018 costs changed meaningfully, with 35% attributable to direct costs (47% in 2010), 4% to suicide-related costs (5% in 2010), and 61% to workplace costs (48% in 2010). This increase in the workplace cost share was consistent with more favorable employment conditions for those with MDD. Finally, the proportion of total costs attributable to MDD itself as opposed to comorbid conditions remained stable at 37% (38% in 2010).

Conclusion: Workplace costs accounted for the largest portion of the growing economic burden of MDD as this population trended younger and was increasingly likely to be employed. Although the total number of adults with MDD increased from 2010 to 2018, the incremental direct cost per individual declined. At the same time, the proportion of adults with MDD who received treatment remained stable over the past decade, suggesting that substantial unmet treatment needs remain in this population. Further research is warranted into the availability, composition, and quality of MDD treatment services.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / epidemiology
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • United States