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JUHANI ARTTO
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Depression in young adults means huge losses for society

Helsinki (19.04.2010 - Juhani Artto) Each year almost 4,000 young adults join the ranks of those classed as permanent disability pensioners. This is naturally very costly for society as a whole. The main loss is estimated to lie with the early termination of their working careers.

The extent and magnitude of the loss involved has been calculated by Guy Ahonen, a health economy expert at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. According to Ahonen, the loss, just taking into account those 16 to 34 year olds who became disability pensioners in 2008 alone, amounts to EUR6.6 billions. The figure reveals the missing value of their work performances from 2008 to the year when they reach the normal retirement age of 65.

A major component of this huge figure consists of those whose work disability is due to mental disorders. Over two thirds of the loss (EUR4.7 billions) is attributable to people suffering from the latter. The figure does not include the expenses related to their care, Ahonen stresses. In 2008 the aggregate care of below 35 year-old disability pensioners cost EUR2.5 billions.

Ahonen thinks that the seriousness of the problem has not been recognised or addressed. The lack of recognition is due to the invisibility of these losses. What is visible are only the pension and care costs of these disability pensioners, not losses incurred by the early end of their working careers.

Ahonen compares the losses with the sums spent by employers on the health care of their employees. The losses are ten times larger than these expenses. Thinking in terms of the national economy, it would be rational to invest much more in the mental well-being of young employees.