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Economics of Mental Health in Australia

Since its establishment, the National Mental Health Commission has sought to put mental health on the economic agenda. The potential economic and social gains from mental health reform from investing in promotion, prevention and early intervention are considerable.

The Commission is seeking to build on the evidence base of why investing in promotion and prevention initiatives can result in benefits for the individual in terms of their mental health and also economic benefits in the form of improvements in productivity and efficiency.

Ten promotion and prevention interventions are currently being modelled using a return on investment framework. The rationale for selecting the interventions is available here:

The modelling is being completed by Deakin Health Economics with support from a Steering Committee who provide independent and expert advice on both the interventions and the modelling process. The project is expected to run from July 2018 to June 2019, with outcomes published progressively over this period.

Summaries of the results for interventions 1 and 2 are currently available below:

Intervention Number

Intervention Description


Workplace based psychological interventions for prevention of depression


E-health psychological workplace intervention for prevention of depression


Physical activity interventions for prevention of post-natal depression.


Psychological interventions for prevention of post-natal depression.


Psychological interventions for treatment  of bullying


Parenting interventions for prevention of mental disorders or mental health promotion


Psychological interventions for the treatment of depression in school settings


E-health for prevention of depression/anxiety in young people.


Educational intervention to reduce older persons' loneliness


E-health intervention to reduce older person’s loneliness


Additional information - context for modelling 

Each intervention has been tested for its effectiveness in preventing or promoting mental health. It has then undergone an assessment of cost-effectiveness using a return on investment ratio. This ratio calculates gain or loss in relation to the initial investment of funding. A return on investment ratio which is greater than $1 means that the cost savings are greater than the costs of the intervention. For example, a return on investment of $1.50 means that for every $1 invested, $1.50 will be gained.

To calculate the return on investment ratio for each intervention, assumptions are made about how the intervention is implemented. For example, each model assumes a sufficient workforce is available and existing infrastructure is in place to deliver the intervention. These assumptions might be optimistic or conservative and can influence: the results of the modelling, the return on investment calculated, and how the results are interpreted. There may also be different ways of implementing the intervention in the real world that may not be captured in the modelling. This means that there are limitations on the applicability of the recommendations in different settings. For example, intervention 1 is modelled in businesses with more than 200 employees because this intervention has not been tested in smaller sized businesses.  

Also, a return on investment framework is just one lens through which to consider the value in delivering mental health promotion or prevention interventions. There are other considerations beyond the economic rationale which may influence whether decision makers (such as government and employers) implement an intervention. These considerations include the acceptability of the intervention for the target population, sustainability of the intervention in the long term and the impacts/benefits on people around the person receiving the intervention e.g. family, carers, co-workers.

The lay summaries should therefore be read and interpreted in this context.

More details of the modelling, including technical summaries for each intervention are available from the Commission upon request.


The National Mental Health Commission issued a media release about the Economics of Mental Health in Australia.

Media Release

National Mental Health Commission Initiatives

Economics of Mental Health in Australia Symposium

Economics of Mental Health in Australia Workshop

Economics of Mental Health Resources

Here are some of the many references that have been identified in the Commission’s work so far around the economics of mental health.

Please note this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of materials, but rather a sample of the substantial work in this area both in Australia and internationally.


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