Byline: Madeleine Brindley
WALES' poor mental health is costing the economy pounds 7.2bn a year, according to new figures revealed today. This massive sum far outweighs the pounds 6.1bnWales spends on health and social care every year and exposes the sheer scale of mental ill-health in the nation.
Experts have calculated the cost for the first time in Wales as they make the case for more investment in mental health promotion and early intervention strategies to prevent mental ill-health impacting on all aspects of a person's life.
They claim improving general mental health and wellbeing alone can add seven and a half years to life expectancy and has the same effect as stopping smoking.
Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, chair of the All-Wales Mental Health Promotion Network, said: "It is not just important that we help people overcome and avoid mental illness - we should also promote people's general wellbeing in life, which has major benefits. Subjective wellbeing increases life expectancy by seven and a half years.
"It provides a similar degree of protection from heart disease to giving up smoking. It improves recovery and health outcomes from a range of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. In young people it significantly influences the use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.
"A positive disposition also predicts positive social behaviour, such as participation, civic engagement and volunteering."
A report by the network, which is published today, argues that preventing mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and general dissatisfaction, can achieve more than treatment alone.
Sir Mansel said: "The prevalence of psychotic diseases has not changed at all, what has changed is this area of indistinct dissatisfaction with life. Depression has increased drastically and puts a huge burden on society - it is the single most important reason why people take time off work, why people go to see their doctor and it puts a huge pressure on secondary and tertiary care."
The report also makes the case for early intervention and addressing childhood conduct disorders, which are thought to affect as many as half the children born every year in Wales. …