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Social and Economic Impact of OCD

The World Health Organisation (WHO) once ranked Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as the tenth most disabling illness of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.

OCD also presents a considerable burden to the individual, family, health services, and society as a whole. The total cost accrued as a result of OCD is difficult to measure because it extends beyond treatment settings. Often sufferers accrue costs attributed to work-related absences, and beyond the immediate family. These latter costs may arise from the affected individuals as well as from family and friends who care for them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, compared with other anxiety related disorders is associated with more marked social and work related occupational impairment.

One US report suggests that the economic impact of OCD in the US has been estimated at $8.4 billion every year.  Here in the UK mental illness accounts for over a third of the burden of illness in Britain. For example, some 40% of all disability (physical and mental) is due to mental illness. It is reported that by comparing the employment rates of people with depression and anxiety with those of the rest of the population, allowing for increased absenteeism that the total loss of output due to depression and chronic anxiety is some £12 billion a year – 1% of our total national income. Of this the cost to the taxpayer is some £7 billion – including incapacity benefits and lost tax receipts.

One report once estimated that, on average, a person with OCD loses fully 3 years of wages over their lifetime and if an OCD sufferer incurs losses of £483.04 for every week they are absent, this would amount to a total of £75,354 due to unemployment over this 3-year period, not including lost opportunities for career advancement and the cost to families and carers over their respective working lifetimes.

The long-term social and economic costs are still likely to be greatly underestimated but this highlights the importance of providing early intervention and the highest quality of care and treatment for people with OCD, which is likely to be economically, not to mention morally, a much more cost effective solution to the social and economic impact of OCD. 

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