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What you need to know about the cost and accessibility of mental health care in America

As Covid-19 continues to rage and almost a year since the murder of George Floyd, it’s once again Mental Health Awareness month. With everything going on, the number of Americans experiencing anxiety and depression is up — 42% of U.S. adults reported symptoms, up from 11% in previous years, according to a December survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As challenges like Covid-19 and the reckoning on racism continue to take a toll on Americans’ mental health, it brings new urgency to some of the long-standing issues like the cost of accessibility of care. Here’s what you need to know.

The cost of mental health

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans has some type of mental health condition. Spending on mental health treatment and services reached $225 billion in 2019, according to an Open Minds Market Intelligence Report. That number, which is up 52% since 2009, includes spending on things like therapy and prescription medications as well as stays in psychiatric or substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.

It doesn’t take into account indirect costs, such as lower workforce participation rates and decreased productivity. In fact, depression alone is estimated to account for $44 billion in losses to workplace productivity, according to a recent report from Tufts Medical Center and One Mind at Work.

And access to care can prohibitively expensive — even more so than physical health costs. An hour-long traditional therapy session can range from $65 to $250 for those without insurance, according to therapist directory

A more severe diagnosis, of course, carries heavier lifetime cost burdens. A patient with major depression can spend an average of $10,836 a year on health costs. Meanwhile, a person with diabetes taking insulin can spend $4,8000 to manage their condition.

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