Clients & Clinicians

Here’s How Much Untreated Mental Illness Costs the US

Brandon Grill
February 23, 2024

It’s undeniable: Untreated mental Illnesses take a huge economic toll on society. Collectively, we spend trillions (yes, trillions) of dollars per year in direct and indirect costs.

Whether it’s anxiety, mood disorders, substance use, or another serious mental illness, the economic cost adds up.


Currently, untreated mental illnesses cost around $2,500,000,000,000 ($2.5 trillion) per year. That’s for the entire globe.

And it’s only getting worse.

We’ll take a look at these costs and what drives them, tailoring our research to the US. Then we’ll look at what can be done to help employees and lower the economic cost of mental illness in the workplace. Innovative solutions like Thrizer, which streamlines the reimbursement process for mental health therapy, represent a crucial step in this direction.

The Societal and Economic Impact of Untreated Mental Illness

When we think about mental health, we often focus on the person suffering. But the impact goes far beyond the individual. Dave Koval, COO at  Synergy Sobriety Solutions, explains this clearly:

“Mental health conditions have a detrimental effect on society. Untreated mental health disorders can cause people to operate less well, have strained relationships, and have a lower quality of life. There is a spillover impact that affects the larger community as well.”

What does this mean? It means that when someone's mental health isn't taken care of, it doesn't just hurt them. It affects their family, their friends, and even the people they work with. Everyone feels the strain.

More Than Just Personal Struggle: Economic Costs

But it's not just about personal struggles. There's a big cost to the economy too.

“Untreated mental illness raises the risk of homelessness, drug misuse, and criminality. Relationship and family stress can result in social distancing and the disintegration of support networks. Reduced efficiency and absenteeism in the workplace can lead to lower output, which presents problems for coworkers and employers.”

When mental illnesses aren't treated, it leads to bigger problems like people losing their homes or turning to drugs. At work, people might miss more days or find it hard to do their job well. This can make things tough for everyone around them, and it costs businesses a lot of money.

The Growing Problem of Ignoring Mental Health

The longer we ignore mental health issues, the worse they get:

“Untreated mental illness has the potential to worsen, resulting in more severe symptoms and problems. Hospitalizations, higher healthcare expenses, and a heavier load on social services could arise from this. Communities may become less functional and generally less well-off, which can lead to a vicious cycle of problems that worsen the effects on society.”

Without treatment, mental health illnesses only grow worse. People might end up in the hospital, which costs a lot of money. And when more people are unwell, it's harder for communities to stay strong and healthy.

The Barriers to Mental Health Care

Accessing mental health care is often more complicated than it should be. Why is this is a significant challenge for so many?

Stigma and Misinformation: A Social Hurdle

The stigma around mental health is still alive and well. Many people struggle with depression and anxiety, two of the most common types of mental health conditions, yet they may feel shame or fear and not share that they are struggling. This stigma creates a barrier, making people hesitant to seek the help they need.

Lack of Resources and Understanding

Misinformation or a lack of understanding about the signs and symptoms around mental health and where to seek care is a challenge. This lack of knowledge can leave people unsure about when and how to get help.

Limited Access to Professionals

Another significant issue is the scarcity of trained mental health professionals. There are too few trained professionals to address the number of people who need help. So, even those willing to seek help may find it hard to access care. Not to mention many therapists not accepting their insurance.

Economic and Cultural Barriers

The high cost of treatments and their limited accessibility are major obstacles. Mental health treatments are often expensive and hard to access. Additionally, cultural barriers and personal circumstances further complicate access to care. Different communities have varied perceptions and approaches to mental health, affecting how individuals seek support.

Keep these in mind as we move on to potential solutions later in this blog.

How much does the US spend on Anxiety and Depression?

The financial impact of untreated mental illness in the United States is enormous. It's not just about healthcare costs but also the loss in productivity and other indirect expenses.

About anxiety, Dave Koval states:

“Untreated anxiety disorders have a major negative impact on lost productivity at work because of absenteeism and poor job performance. The financial burden is further increased by the expenses of therapy and medicines, which are part of the treatment.”

Depression is another area with significant costs. In the US alone, depression is estimated to cost $44B per year in lost productivity. Koval explains:

“Both the out-of-pocket expenses of treatment and the intangible costs of missed work productivity are factors in the economic burden of untreated depression. Long-term disability is a potential consequence of depression, which increases the financial burden.”

In simple terms, depression can lead to people missing work or not being able to work at all. This costs a lot, both in treatment and in what they could have earned.

The risks are there for employers whose workers have mental illnesses. “Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety” says one World Health Organization (WHO) article

Overall Cost to the Economy

When we add up everything, the cost of mental disorders to the economy is huge. Koval puts it this way:

“All things considered, mental illnesses cost the US economy heavily and lower productivity in several industries. The financial burden of medical expenses and reduced output puts pressure on people as well as the economy.”

So, untreated mental illness is not just a personal issue. It affects the whole country's economy in a big way.

Addressing the Issue: The Path Forward

The challenges and costs of untreated mental illness are clear. Now, it's crucial to look at what can be done to improve the situation. This means finding ways to help people access the mental health care they need and reducing the overall economic burden.

Increasing Access and Affordability

One of the biggest steps is making mental health care more accessible and affordable. This includes having more mental health professionals and making sure treatments are not too expensive. It's also important to have health insurance that covers mental health care.

Breaking Down Stigma

Another key step is to fight against the stigma around mental health. People should not feel ashamed or afraid to seek help. More public awareness and education can make a big difference. This can help people understand mental health better and know that it's okay to ask for help.

Support from Employers

Employers can play a big role too. They can support their employees by understanding mental health issues and offering help. This could include things like mental health days, therapy benefits, or programs that focus on mental well-being at work.

Innovative Solutions Like Thrizer

Companies like Thrizer are also part of the solution. Thrizer helps make the process of getting money back for mental health therapy easier. This can be a big help for people who use their out-of-network benefits for therapy.

A Collective Effort

Finally, it's a team effort. Everyone – from governments to healthcare providers, employers to individuals – needs to work together. By taking these steps, we can create a better environment for mental health care and reduce the overall cost of untreated mental illness.

The Role of Society in Mental Health Care

Improving mental health care isn't just a job for doctors or policymakers. It's something where everyone in society can make a difference. This includes families, friends, communities, and workplaces.

Community Support and Education

Communities can help by creating a supportive environment. This means having more talks about mental health and making sure everyone knows it's a serious issue. Education is key. By teaching people about mental health from a young age, we can help reduce stigma and misunderstanding.

Policy Changes and Healthcare Systems

On a larger scale, policy changes are needed. Governments can help by making laws and policies that make mental health care better and more accessible. This includes funding for mental health programs and ensuring that healthcare systems are equipped to handle mental health needs effectively.

The Power of Personal Action

Every person can make a difference too. This can be as simple as being there for someone who's struggling or sharing information about mental health resources. Small actions can have a big impact.

In the end, the goal is to create a society where mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

This means having the right support, resources, and attitudes towards mental health. By working together and taking action, we can build a future where mental illness is treated with the care and attention it deserves.

Conclusion: Turning Awareness into Action

We've seen the immense impact that untreated mental illness has on individuals, the workplace, and society. This is an issue that needs urgent attention and action from all of us.

Each of us needs to continue advocating for better mental health care, increased accessibility, and reduced stigma. Employers, healthcare providers, policymakers, and individuals all have a part to play in creating a more supportive environment for mental health.

Until these challenges are addressed, tools like Thrizer play a crucial role. Thrizer simplifies the reimbursement process for mental health therapy, making it easier for people to access the care they need. This kind of innovation is a step in the right direction, helping to remove financial barriers to mental health treatment.

Look at Thrizer’s amazing service and contact us today.


This blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, business, medical, or insurance advice. Laws relating to health insurance and coverage are complex, and their application can vary widely depending on individual circumstances and state laws. Similarly, decisions regarding mental health care should be made with the guidance of qualified health care providers. We strongly recommend consulting with a qualified attorney or legal advisor, insurance representative, and/or medical professional to discuss your specific situation and how the laws apply to you or your situation.

About the Author
Brandon Grill

Brandon Grill is a mental health copywriter and marketer based in Las Vegas, NV. He loves helping mental health professionals build fulfilling businesses. You can find Brandon going on a walk with his adorable nephews.