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U.S. spending on mental disorders higher than for any other condition

Written by Diane Archer

A new Health Affairs study of U.S. health spending finds that spending on mental disorders was higher than for any other condition in 2013.  In total, the U.S. spent $201 billion on mental health care. In contrast, the U.S. spent about 75 percent less, just over $50 billion, to treat hypertension and about 70 percent less to treat kidney disease and diabetes.

Spending growth on heart disease is far slower than for mental disorders in large part because people are smoking a lot less, and we have better ways to control hypertension. As a result, fewer people are dying from heart conditions. Faster spending growth on mental disorders is attributed to people living longer into older age.

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  • Another thing missed was the fact that while the medications for heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease are in enough demand that they are being produced by generic manufacturers, there is not that great a demand for medications to treat mental illnesses. Granted, more money is going into mental health medications, but far fewer people are getting the treatment they need. Look at the population in most US jails and prisons and you will find a high percentage of the inmates have serious mental health problems. With no available treatment centers, or hospitals set up to handle mental illness, someone who has a flare-up is most likely to wind up in jail, still untreated.

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