September 12, 2008

Publication: Irish Examiner

Date: Friday, September 12, 2008 Page: 7

Author: Jennifer Hough

Headline: Schizophrenia costs economy €500m a year

Schizophrenia costs economy €500m a year Resources 'do not reflect costs' by Jennifer Hough SCHIZOPHRENIA is costing the economy almost half a billion euro annually, according to a pioneering study published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. But the huge costs incurred in supporting those with the illness, which affects more than 10,000 people in this country, stands in stark contrast to the low level of resources devoted to diagnosis and treatment.

Brendan Kennelly, of the department of economics at NUI Galway, and one of the report's authors, said while schizophrenia is not a very common condition, it is a very expensive one. Direct costs of dealing with the illness, such as in- patient and outpatient care, medication, and community services, were estimated at more than €118 million. But indirect costs — the loss of productivity due to unemployment, absence from work and premature mortality, came to more than €343m in 2006, while informal care provided by family members accounted for almost €44m. "The amount spent on diagnosing and treating the illness is very little of the overall ex- penditure," he said. "There is good evidence that clinical treatment works better if the diagnosis is made earlier, so from an economic point of view, the general message would be to treat early."

Undertaken by Dr Caragh Behan, of DETECT, Mr Kennelly, and UCD professor Eadbhard O'Callaghan, the study is the first of its kind in Ireland and quantifies both direct and indirect costs of schizophrenia. "The high cost of the illness is attributable to a number of factors," said Mr Kennelly. "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." According to the report, cost-of-illness studies have been identified as a useful analytical tool in determining where resources should be employed.

Prof O'Callaghan said the results highlighted the important role family members play in providing informal care to people with schizophrenia. "More effort should be made to improve employment opportunities for people with schizophrenia, such as supported employment schemes," he said. "In other countries more resources are being devoted to the early detection of schizophrenia because, with the appropriate help, people can and do recover."

The study into schizophrenia, which affects 10,000 people in Ireland, highlights the costs associated with the illness