Economic burden of mental illnesses in Pakistan

Muhammad Ashar Malik, Aga Khan University



The economic consequences of mental illnesses are much more than health consequences. In Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) the economic impact of mental illnesses is rarely analyzed. This paper attempts to fill the gap in research on economics of mental health in LMIC. We provide economic burden of mental illness in Pakistan that can serve as an argument for reorienting health policy, resource allocation and priority settings.


To estimate economic burden of mental illnesses in Pakistan.


The study used prevalence based cost of illnesses approach using bottom-up costing methodology. We used Aga Khan University Hospital, Psychiatry department data set (N = 1882) on admission and ambulatory care for the year 2005-06. Healthcare cost data was obtained from finance department of the hospital. Productivity losses, caregiver and travel cost were estimated using socio-economic features of patients in the data set and data of national household survey. We used stratified random sampling and methods of ordinary least square multiple linear regressions to estimate cost on medicines for ambulatory care. All estimates of cost are based on 1000 bootstrap samples by ICD-10 disease classification. Prevalence data on mental illnesses from Pakistan and regional countries was used to estimate economic burden.


The economic burden of mental illnesses in Pakistan was Pakistan Rupees (PKR) 250,483 million (USD 4264.27 million) in 2006. Medical care costs and productivity losses contributed 37% and 58.97% of the economic burden respectively. Tertiary care admissions costs were 70% of total medical care costs. The average length of stay (LOS) for admissions care was around 8 days. Daily average medical care cost of admitted patients was PKR 3273 (USD 55.72). For ambulatory care, on average a patient visited the clinic twice a year. The estimated average yearly cost for all mental illnesses was PKR 81,922 (USD 1394.65) and PKR 19,592 (USD 333.54) for admissions and ambulatory care respectively. In the sensitivity analysis productivity losses showed high variability (from USD 1022.17 million to USD 4007.01 million). Assuming a gate keeping role of primary healthcare (PHC) demonstrated a saving of USD 1577.19 million in total economic burden.


This study set out to generate evidence using a low cost innovative approach relevant to many LMICs. In Pakistan, like many LMICs, patients access tertiary care directly, even for illness that can be efficiently managed at PHC level. In economic terms the non-medical consequences of mental illnesses are far greater than medical consequences. Based on these finding we recommend, firstly, that mental illnesses should be prioritized equally as other illnesses in health policy and secondly there needs to be integration of mental health in primary health care in Pakistan.