IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

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09/09/2014 - Press release

The economic impact of disorders of the brain in Spain is the equivalent of 8% of its GDP

Cost-disease studies are necessary to draft the correct health policies and also for the changes required to better manage these disorders

Mental disorders and brain disease represent a high cost in Europe and around the world. Researchers from IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute) have recently published in the PLOS ONE journal the results of a study that estimates that the cost of disorders of the brain in Spain is the equivalent of 84 billion Euros per year. This figure is far higher than the Spanish expenditure in health, which was 73 billion Euros in 2012.

When referring to the cost of a disease, this not only includes the direct health cost – resources used for primary healthcare, specialised care, hospital stays, medication, preventive programmes, etc. –but also direct non-medical costs of these disorders and diseases –for instance, the cost of carers –and the indirect costs or potential loss of productivity for death, permanent or temporary disability, lost or decreased leisure, etc.

For this study, a group of nineteen disorders and diseases of the brain were included, encompassing neurological diseases –dementia, epilepsy, headache, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and neuromuscular diseases – and also mental diseases –anxiety disorders, humour disorders and psychotic disorders – to reach a global and individual estimate of their impact.

We have estimated that, in Spain, the average cost per patient with these diseases is of 2,440 Euros per year, subject to great variability depending on the diagnosis, which can reach 36,936 Euros per year for those patients with multiple sclerosis, or 25,303 for patients with dementias” explains Jordi Alonso, the person in charge of the study and the director of the Research Programme on Epidemiology and Public Health at IMIM.

We have also determined that, on average, 37% of this cost would correspond to direct health costs, 29% to indirect health costs, and 33% corresponds to indirect costs, even if these percentages vary significantly depending on the type of disorder and disease” he adds.

There are several factors that are having an impact on the increase of the costs associated to these disorders: social and demographic changes such as smaller family units or the increased participation of women in the labour market are changing the role of families when taking care of these diseases. At the same time, social expectations on a longer and more functional life expectancy also make the cost of these disorders to increase.

More research is needed to overcome the gaps in knowledge on the cost of mental disorders and some neurological diseases because in the near future the costs will probably increase due to an ageing population and there will be a greater prevalence of degenerative disorders and associated to disability. Measures are needed to reduce the cost of effective medications and to provide an efficient and affordable community attention.”, concludes Jordi Alonso.

According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) disorders of the brain currently represent 10.4% of the world cost per disease and this percentage is expected to rise to 14.4% in the year 2030. For this reason, it is essential to know what the main factors are contributing to the costs of disorders of the brain to draft the adequate health policies and to help in decision-making.

Article of reference: “Cost of Disorders of the Brain in Spain”. Oleguer Pares-Badell, Gabriela Barbaglia, Petra Jerinic, Anders Gustavsson, Luis Salvador-Carulla, Jordi Alonso. PLOS ONE 9(8): e105471. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105471

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