Measuring the cost of undiagnosed depression

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By Michael Halford, Stephen P. Melek | 01 July 2012

Despite the high cost and prevalence of depression, it is often either undiagnosed or not diagnosed in a timely manner, and diagnosis does not always lead to treatment. While the costs of depression after the diagnosis of the condition have been widely studied, literature on the healthcare costs and absence-from-work costs during the period between initial disease onset and subsequent diagnosis and treatment is not as robust.

New research estimates the excess healthcare costs and absence-from-work costs during the two-year period prior to the initial diagnosis of depression. This research indicates that the total excess healthcare costs and absence-from-work costs for persons with undiagnosed depression over the two-year period leading up to the depression diagnosis/treatment is approximately $3,386 per undiagnosed depressed individual (in 2009 dollars). The report includes a discussion of what these findings mean for employers and insurers.

This article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Contingencies, a bimonthly magazine published by the American Academy of Actuaries.