Reducing the burden of affective disorders: Is evidence-based health care affordable?

Kristy Sanderson, Gavin Andrews, Justine Corry, Helen Lapsley

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Affective disorders remain the leading cause of disability burden despite the availability of efficacious treatment. A wider dissemination of evidence-based health care is likely to impact this burden, however the affordability of such a strategy at the population level is unknown. This study calculated the cost-effectiveness of evidence-based health care for depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder in the Australian population, and determined whether it was affordable, based on current mental health-related expenditure and outcomes for these disorders. 

Methods: Cost-effectiveness was expressed in costs per years lived with disability (YLDs) averted, a population health summary measure of disability burden. Data from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, in conjunction with published randomized trials and direct cost estimates, were used to estimate the 1-year costs and YLDs averted by current health care services, and costs and outcomes for an optimal strategy of evidence-based health care. 

Results: Current direct mental health-related health care costs for affective disorders in Australia were $615 million (1997-98 Australian dollars). This treatment averted just under 30,000 YLDs giving a cost-effectiveness ratio of $20,633 per YLD. Outcome could be increased by nearly 50% at similar cost with implementation of an evidence-based package of optimal treatment, halving the cost-effectiveness ratio to $10,737 per YLD. 

Limitations: The method to estimate YLDs averted from the literature requires replication. The costs of implementing evidence-based health care have not been estimated. 

Conclusions: Evidence-based health care for affective disorders should be encouraged on both efficacy and efficiency grounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number2
Early online date31 Jul 2003
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Burden of disease
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Depression
  • Dysthymia

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