Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School note that health inequality leads to a greater risk of developing a mental health disorder, and it results in reduced access to the healthcare services needed to support mental health concerns, such as substance use disorder.
In addition to increased risk, drivers of health lead populations to experience the impact of mental health disorders more acutely. Factors such as a person’s physical environment can lead to a higher incidence of severe illness.
All these factors combine to impact a population over generations, forcing a community into a generational cycle of undertreated medical and mental health conditions.
“A two-way relationship exists between mental health disorders and social determinants, as poor mental health can aggravate personal choices and affect living conditions that limit opportunities,” the researchers wrote.
The need for mental health services, combined with a lack of accessible and affordable care, results in a significant economic impact. Health disparities directly affect the national cost of medical and mental healthcare across every category, leading to $93 billion in medical costs and $42 billion in lost productivity per year.
Data from electronic medical records (EMR) show that high-cost behavioral health patients are more likely to have a documented history of mental health conditions that include: