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SA’s mental healthcare costs rate average on the global scale

Mental Health Price Index 2022 finds depression is average and anxiety is lower in SA than in many parts of the world

24 March 2022 - 10:35
The new Mental Health Price Index 2022 released on Thursday has found that while South Africans are averagely depressed, the rest of the world is far more anxious. Stock photo.
The new Mental Health Price Index 2022 released on Thursday has found that while South Africans are averagely depressed, the rest of the world is far more anxious. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/altanaka

A new global study looking at both the cost of mental healthcare and the quality of the services provided has found that SA rates close to average in terms of costs and ranks in the bottom third in terms of resources and the care on offer.

And while our people are averagely depressed on the global scale, we are a whole lot less anxious than the rest of the world,

This is according to the new Mental Health Price Index 2022 released on Thursday by kenkou, a Berlin-based health tech company that specialises in health monitoring.

This latest study was done in the context of mental health pressures from the pandemic and war in Ukraine, and offers a new price indexing comparing the cost and quality of mental health services around the world.

Out of the 50 countries examined in the study, SA ranked the 24th most expensive for mental healthcare.

The US ranked top with the most expensive mental healthcare, rating more than 2,800% above the average. Bangladesh has the cheapest mental healthcare, ranking 209% below the global median.

Switzerland charges the highest in the world for therapy, at an average of $206 (R3,049) an hour, followed by the UAE at $163 (R2,413) and Norway at $143 (R2,116).

Kenkou took into account the impact of the pandemic and war in Ukraine on mental health services, and conducted the study using data to better understand the countries best equipped to deal with the mental healthcare crisis.

“At kenkou, we’ve witnessed the devastating effects of the pandemic on the global mental healthcare sector. Though we are looking to find innovative solutions to the current strain on healthcare services, it is important to draw attention to this vital sector and the necessity for affordable, good quality mental healthcare for everyone,” said Matthias Puls, CEO and MD of kenkou.

“Of course, it must be noted that direct comparison between different countries in the study is not always useful given the difference in purchasing power between the Global North and South, for instance. Nevertheless, we undertook this study to better understand the healthcare market and felt that, during this unprecedented period of disruption to mental healthcare, the findings would be of great value to all.”

The study analysed mental healthcare data from 120 countries around the world. The accuracy and reliability of data was closely examined and then 50 countries were shortlisted for the study. These countries were assessed based on the cost of care, cost of medicines and prevalence of mental health conditions, as well as access to and quality of care.

The costs of branded and generic medications were taken into account and costs were all converted and calculated in US dollars for comparison purposes. On top of this, data was taken from sources including the World Health Organisation, Eurostat, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Countries were rated out of 100 on mental healthcare infrastructure, with their scores calculated using information on the number of psychologists and psychiatrists available to the population, quality of mental healthcare as well as the physical and digital support available to patients.

The study findings show that the US has the best mental healthcare on offer, followed by the UK, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Denmark. SA was ranked 32nd out of 50. According to the study, Chile has the highest number of psychologists, with 271.6 per 100,000, followed by Portugal and Argentina third.

Greece rated as the country with the highest number of people living with both depression and stress. In comparison, SA was spot-on averagely depressed and mildly anxious — at number 25 out of 50 in the rankings of the percentage of the population living with depression and even lower, at number 38, in terms of the number of people with anxiety.

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