Calling Into The Office Mentally Ill

Catherine Rampell observes that “mental illness has been an increasingly significant health concern over the past several decades, but it’s now becoming an economic one too”:

The number of Americans who receive Social Security Disability Insurance for mental disorders has doubled during the past 15 years. Eliza [who suffers from depression] is now one of an estimated 11.5 million American adults with a debilitating mental illness, on whom the country spends about $150 billion annually on direct medical costs — therapy, drugs, hospitalizations and so forth. But the biggest blow to the overall economy are the many hidden, indirect costs. People with serious mental illness earn, on average, $16,000 less than their mentally well counterparts, totaling about $193 billion annually in lost earnings, according to a 2008 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. And many mentally ill workers, who are more likely to miss work, also suffer from what social scientists call presenteeism — the opposite of absenteeism — in which they are very likely to be less productive on the job when they show up.

In a follow-up, Rampell looks at whether “having a mild version of a mental illness is advantageous, at least for aptitude in certain endeavors and interests”:

Perhaps you might wonder if broader push to bring people into the mental health care system could lead to overmedication, and potentially dull the brilliance of some oddball innovators. Economists, epidemiologists and other medical experts that I spoke with, though, say that preponderance of evidence suggests that mental illness almost always does more harm than good, especially if you use the broader lens of well-being, and not just economic productivity.