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Financial Impact of Major Depressive Disorder

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Major depressive disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, affects millions of people worldwide, including kids and adults. In 2021, about 21 million adults in the United States had at least 1 major depressive episode.1,2

Beyond its emotional toll, MDD can also have significant financial effects. In 2018, adult MDD cost the United States economy about $326 billion.2

Direct and indirect costs

The costs of MDD, whether they are direct or indirect, can affect both individuals and society in a big way.2

Direct costs

Direct costs are the expenses that have a clear connection to diagnosing, treating, and managing MDD. These costs can include:3

  • Doctor’s visits – People with MDD need to have frequent visits with mental health experts and doctors.
  • MedicinesAntidepressant drugs are often prescribed to treat MDD.
  • Therapy and counselingTherapy sessions or counseling services are often a part of MDD treatment.
  • Medical tests – Blood work or other tests may be done to rule out other conditions.
  • Travel – Traveling to and from medical appointments, therapy sessions, and support group meetings costs money.
  • Hospital stays – These may be necessary in severe cases due to the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Indirect costs

Indirect costs of MDD are less obvious than direct costs but are equally impactful. Some examples of indirect costs include:2,3

  • Lost wages – Reduced work hours or missed workdays due to MDD symptoms can lead to a drop in income.
  • Decreased productivity – People with MDD may find it hard to concentrate or complete tasks, leading to lower job performance.
  • Strained relationships – The emotional toll of MDD can strain relationships. Resulting stress for those caring for or living with someone who has MDD can lead to lost income.

Tips to help manage the costs of depression

While some costs may be unavoidable, there are ways that people with MDD and their caregivers can better navigate financial challenges. Some tips include:4

  • Health insurance – Review your policy to understand your coverage for therapy, medicines, and hospital stays.
  • Medication assistance programs – Explore drug assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies to help reduce the cost of the drugs.
  • In-network providers – Choose a therapist or counselor who is in-network with your insurance plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs.
  • Group sessions – Consider group therapy or support groups, which can be more cost-effective than 1-on-1 therapy.
  • Generic drugs – Talk to your doctor about switching to generic versions of your medicines. These are usually more affordable.
  • Know your plan – Get to know your job benefits. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) often offer counseling services or flexible work arrangements to meet your treatment needs.
  • Budgeting – Create a budget that factors in your medical expenses, therapy costs, and possible income loss due to MDD. Being financially prepared can help lessen stress.
  • Communicate – Talk openly with your doctor about your concerns. They may be able to recommend different treatments or resources to reduce costs.
  • Practice self-care – Try adding self-care habits to your daily routine to decrease your MDD symptoms and increase your overall health. Doing so might mean you need fewer doctor’s visits and could save you money in the long run.

The number of people in the United States with MDD is increasing. As a result, the costs of the condition are rising. Raising awareness of the costs of MDD can help people with the condition and their loved ones learn to protect their finances.1,2

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