Background: We estimate in dollar terms the economic burden of depression in the United States on an annual basis.
Method: Using a human capital approach, we develop prevalence-based estimates of three major cost-of-illness categories: (1) direct costs of medical, psychiatric, and pharmacologic care; (2) mortality costs arising from depression-related suicides; and (3) morbidity costs associated with depression in the workplace. With respect to the latter category, we extend traditional cost-of-illness research to include not only the costs arising from excess absenteeism of depressed workers, but also the reductions in their productive capacity while at work during episodes of the illness.
Results: We estimate that the annual costs of depression in the United States total approximately $43.7 billion. Of this total, $12.4 billion-28%-is attributable to direct costs, $7.5 billion-17%-comprises mortality costs, and $23.8 billion-55%-is derived from the two morbidity cost categories.
Conclusion: Depression imposes significant annual costs on society. Because there are many important categories of cost that have yet to be estimated, the true burden of this illness may be even greater than is implied by our estimate. Future research on the total costs of depression may include attention to the comorbidity costs of this illness with a variety of other diseases, reductions in the quality of life experienced by sufferers, and added out-of-pocket costs resulting from the effects of this illness, including those related to household services. Finally, it may be useful to estimate the additional costs associated with expanding the definition of depression to include individuals who suffer from only some of the symptoms of this illness.