The new figures, which can be translated into 250 euro per inhabitant per year, or 1 per cent of Europe’s aggregate national income, are presented by Patrik Sobocki in his doctoral thesis “Health economics of depression”, and show that depression is one of the largest health economic problems in Europe.
The thesis also analyses the impact of depression on the patients’ quality of life. The results demonstrate that the quality of life is halved during a depressive episode, which is equal to the impact of a severe stroke, and that many patients stop functioning socially and lose their ability to work. This is reflected in the fact that two thirds of the costs incurred by depression are due to absenteeism from work, whereas costs of care make up the remaining third. .
The thesis also shows that today’s treatment methods for depression have positive impact on the patients’ quality of life and help to reduce the overall costs of the disease. However, there is still room for improvement in the care for depressed patients. According to Mr Sobocki, only half the number of depressed patients in Swedish primary care is fully relieved from their depressive symptoms after a six-month course of treatment.
“It’s important to treat patients with a depressive episode quickly and until symptoms are fully relieved,” he explains. “Patients who get rid of their symptoms completely from treatment are associated with a 40% better quality of life compared with patients only responding partially. We have shown that these patients have reduced costs of €2 700 per patient since symptom-free patients often can return to work have substantially fewer health care visits.”
The results of the thesis provide an important foundation for making more effective use of healthcare resources, says Mr Sobocki. There is still a serious shortage of sound health economic evaluations of treatments for depression, which are necessary for decision-makers to make rational decisions on the allocation of healthcare resources, and to use treatments for depression more cost-effectively. The thesis also shows that there is a need for more routine monitoring of how depressed patients are cared for, in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided..
Doctoral thesis: “Health economics of depression” is due for presentation on 13 October at Karolinska Institutet.