- Stress-related health issues estimated to cost the NHS over £11 billion per year.
More than 68million GP appointments and 3million emergency department visits were caused by stress-related illnesses, a new report by Cigna and Asia Care Group has revealed.
The report, titled ‘Chronic Stress: Are we reaching health system burn out?’, analysed the most up-to-date patient data to reveal the annual expenditure on stress-related illness across both the NHS and private care sector. This translates as the largest single area of spend in the UK health sector today.
The key findings include:
- Stress-related illnesses (such as stress-related mental illnesses, stress which manifests as medically unexplained conditions, and stress which manifests as physical symptoms) were estimated to cost the NHS over £11billion, representing 6.2% of total health expenditure.
- More than 3million emergency department visits were driven by stress-related illness
- More than 9million outpatient attendances related to stress
- Over 5.5million inpatient admissions were driven by stress-related illness; the largest proportion of stress-related healthcare expenditure, accounting for 23% of all inpatient spend
- Stress also accounted for a third of primary care expenditure (33%), at a cost of £1.8billion and £238million to government and the private sector, respectively
Analysing the impact of stress-related illness in nine markets, including the UK, the US and Australia, the research was commissioned to obtain a global picture of the huge financial burden that stress-related illness is putting on health systems. As many as 25% of global hospital admissions, 19% of emergency department attendances, 35% of primary care visits, and 12% of outpatient attendances are likely to be the result of conditions driven by stress.
Dr Peter Mills, Cigna Medical Director, said:
“This research highlights the massive financial burden that stress-related illness is putting on health systems, not only in the UK but across the globe. Although stress will always exist, we believe better awareness and indeed early diagnosis can help people to live happier, more productive lives, reduce physical illness and avoid these significant misdirected costs on our health systems worldwide.
“Action is needed to address the causes of stress in the UK, as well as support people to better manage stress and ensure systems are in place to identify and treat stress-related illness. As a country, our research shows that 72% of Brits suffer from stress, and we urgently need a better understanding of how stress can manifest itself and how employers can play a crucial role in helping their staff better identify and manage stress before it becomes a chronic condition. Luckily there are now a number of health and wellbeing strategies that employers can adopt to create healthier, happier workplaces and moreover, a more caring and open culture, where people feel they can discuss stress-related issues.”
As well as analysing the health service usage by people suffering from stress-related conditions, the research analysed the usage by people who sought medical help for unexplained physical issues or symptoms and mental health conditions that are commonly associated with stress. The research concluded that managing and treating all these patients was extensive, with significant costs associated.
Hospital-led health systems were observed to spend considerably more on stress-related conditions than systems in which strong primary care is in place. This emphasises the need to consider how preventative, community-based services could be better used to manage-down the clinical and financial risks posed by excessive stress.
Dr Peter Mills, Cigna Medical Director, added:
“Despite experiencing signs of mental illness caused by chronic stress, many people do not seek medical help straightaway, waiting until they experience physical symptoms. This is likely because in many countries, including the UK, mental health is still taboo and seeking help for physical symptoms has more cultural acceptability.
“Challenging and breaking taboos will encourage people to seek help earlier, potentially reducing the impact and related cost of stress. Healthcare leaders, government, employers and individuals have a role to play in breaking taboos and encouraging people to talk to someone early and finding solutions.”
The research follows a global campaign by Cigna, See Stress Differently, which aims to raise awareness and encourage people to talk to their medical professional about stress, and help people create a clear plan to better manage stress and its side effects. As part of the campaign, Cigna partnered with doctors, technologists and renowned digital artist, Sean Sullivan, to create a first-of-its-kind stress visualisation technology, combining biometric data and digital art to create moving images showing the physical and emotional signs of stress in the body and mind.
To read the full report, “Chronic Stress: Are we reaching health system burn out?” please visit: https://www.cignaglobal.com/static/docs/pdf/cigna%20asia%20care%20report%20-%2018%20nov.pdf