Sep 11 2008 Posted: 00:00 IST
The economic cost of schizophrenia in Ireland has been estimated at over €460 million for 2006 in an article published today in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. This is the first attempt to estimate the economic cost of schizophrenia which affects over 10,000 people in Ireland in any year. The relatively high cost of schizophrenia stands in stark contrast to the relatively low level of resources devoted to mental health care in Ireland. The authors of the article, Dr. Caragh Behan, DETECT, Mr. Brendan Kennelly, NUI Galway and Professor Eadbhard O'Callaghan, UCD, included both direct and indirect costs in their analysis. Direct costs, which refer to the cost of resources used in the treatment of schizophrenia such as inpatient and outpatient care, medication, and community services, were estimated at over €118 million. Indirect costs, which refer to the loss of productivity due to unemployment, absence from work and premature mortality were estimated at over €343 million in 2006. Informal care provided by family members accounted for almost €44 million. Commenting on the results Brendan Kennelly, of the Department of Economics at NUI Galway, said: "While schizophrenia is not a very common condition, it is a very expensive one. This is attributable to a number of factors – the relatively young age when schizophrenia typically affects a person, the high mortality rate associated with the condition, and the very low employment rates for people with schizophrenia." Cost-of-illness studies, which have been widely used for over thirty years, provide very useful information on the burden of an illness and are a useful analytical tool in determining where resources should be employed. Professor Eadbhard O'Callaghan of the School of Medicine, University College Dublin, said that the results highlight the important role that family members play in providing informal care to people with schizophrenia. He added that more effort should be made to improve employment opportunities for people with schizophrenia such as supported employment schemes. Professor O'Callaghan said that in other countries more resources are being devoted to the early detection of schizophrenia because, with the appropriate help, people can and do recover.