The economic value of informal mental health caring in Australia

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The economic value of informal mental health caring in Australia

Mental illness is common and is a leading cause of disability burden in Australia. In 2007 it was estimated that mental illness affects 20% of Australian adults aged 16–85 every year. However, there are acknowledged gaps in available services for people with mental illness which result in them not always receiving timely support of the type and quantity needed. Therefore informal carers, such as a family member or friend, play a significant role in the care of people with mental illness in Australia, providing a substantial number of hours of unpaid support.
In the absence of this informal care, the overall functioning and quality of life of people with mental illness who currently have a carer would be poorer. Their care needs would either go unmet or would need to be picked up by the formal health and social care systems, at additional cost to government. Recent reports have estimated the overall value of caring in Australia for carers of individuals with all types of disorders or disabilities.

The replacement cost of this care was estimated to be $60.3 billion, which highlights the size of the informal care sector. Until now, there has been no published attempt to establish the value of the care delivered by mental health carers each year, in terms of the unpaid hours of support provided to people with mental illness.

Mind Australia commissioned the University of Queensland (UQ) research team to:
1. profile Australian mental health carers
2. provide an estimate of the value of informal mental health care (replacement cost)
3. estimate bed-based service replacement costs
4. review current government spending on carers.

This information was required to quantify the input of carers into the mental health system, and to describe the support needs of carers to ensure that they can continue to perform their valuable caring roles.

You can read the full report here.

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