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Even Small Improvements in Treatment for Depression Can Yield Substantial Health and Economic Gains for Canada

Ottawa, January 30, 2018—Ensuring that more Canadians living with depression have access to minimally adequate treatment would represent significant benefits for Canada’s economy and health care system, according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care.

According to the latest data, only half (53 per cent) of Canadians diagnosed with depression receive sufficient treatment. If this number was to rise to 75 per cent, more Canadians living with depression would be more productive at work, translating to approximately $2.6 billion annually in increased economic activity. More Canadians having access to minimally adequate treatment would also have a significant impact on health care costs. The report estimates around 700 fewer hospitalizations from people living with moderate and severe depression, which would reduce health care system costs by about $5.7 million annually.

“Depression can affect an individual's health, well-being, and productivity, due to being absent from work or performing with reduced functionality. Early diagnosis and treatment have the potential to reduce functional impairment and lower costs for the health care system and the economy,” said Greg Sutherland, Principal Economist, Health Economics and Policy.

Highlights

  • Early diagnosis and optimal treatment provides significant opportunity for recovery among Canadians living with depression, resulting in improved workplace functionality and reduced health care costs.
  • According to the latest data, only half (53 per cent) of Canadians diagnosed with depression receive sufficient treatment.
  • If the number of Canadians receiving sufficient treatment for depression was to rise to 75 per cent, Canada’s economy would be boosted by approximately $2.6 billion per year and reduce health care system costs by about $5.7 million annually.

Previous Conference Board research estimates that of the 1.3 million Canadians with depression, only 17 per cent are working full-time and are fully functioning at work. Another 40 per cent are working full-time but at a reduced level of functioning, while 20 per cent work part-time because their illness prevents them from working full-time. The remaining 23 per cent are unable to work.

The report, Absent Without Leaving: The Economic Impact of Early Optimized Treatment for Depression, examines the economic impact of increased access to treatment for depression. The report looks at three scenarios: increasing the number of people who seek treatment, increasing the number of people who receive minimally adequate treatment, and increasing the number of people who receive optimal treatment and reach remission.

While the greatest benefit for both Canadians and the economy comes from ensuring that Canadians currently seeking treatment for depression can access optimal treatment and reach full functional recovery, this target may be too hard to achieve. A step in the right direction would be to increase access to minimally adequate treatment, which would also lead to significant economic gains and health care cost savings. Minimally adequate treatment is defined as receiving more than 4 counselling or psychotherapy sessions, or having antidepressant prescriptions filled with more than 84 supply days.

One way to increase minimally adequate treatment is to improve the degree to which patients follow care plans. This can include education and self-management by patients, and a collaborative care approach by practitioners. For example, patients should be aware of the time lag required for them to feel the effect of the antidepressant, and the need to continue medications even when feeling better. Providing psychotherapy in conjunction with pharmacotherapy may also increase adherence to care plans.

Absent Without Leaving: The Economic Impact of Early Optimized Treatment for Depression was funded by Pfizer Canada and the Conference Board’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care.


For more information contact

Corporate Communications
613-526-3280
corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca


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