Health policies and data

Mental Health


Mental disorders account for one of the largest and fastest growing categories of the burden of disease worldwide. Mental ill-health can have devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, with one in every two people experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime. As many as 80% of those with a common mental disorder, and up to 50% of those with a severe mental disorder, do not seek or receive treatment. Mental ill-health also weighs heavily on societies and economies; the economic burden of mental ill-health can rise to up to 4% of GDP, and those with mental illness have poorer educational and work outcomes than those in good mental health.


Given the significant burden of mental ill-health, for individuals, societies and economies, there is considerable interest in ways to strengthen mental health systems, and measure performance in an objective and standardised way. There is also vast potential for cross-country learning and sharing of best practices between OECD members, and much still remains to be done to assure high-quality evidence-based treatment, appropriate outcome measurement, and good value-for-money in mental health care.

In 2018, the OECD began an ambitious new project to benchmark mental health performance. Working with international mental health experts and key stakeholders from across the world, this project will establish how ‘performance’ in mental health should be defined, measured, and improved. A final report, which ties together the performance benchmarking and the best-practice policies, is expected to be released in 2019. The report will use mental health performance measures, and mental health policy mapping, to benchmark how effective countries are at delivering mental health care. This report is expected to be a key tool to deepen understanding, drive improvement, and identify excellence in mental health practice in OECD countries.

Promoting mental health in Europe: Why and how? 

Greater efforts to promote mental health and improve early diagnosis and treatment of those with mental illness would improve the lives of millions of Europeans and contribute to stronger economic and employment conditions.

Health at a Glance: Europe 2018, released on November 22, says that mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug use disorders, affect more than one in six people across the European Union in any given year. Besides the impact on people’s well-being, the report estimates the total costs of mental ill-health at over EUR 600 billion – or more than 4% of GDP – across the 28 EU countries. A large part of these costs are due to lower employment rates and productivity of people with mental health issues (1.6% of GDP or EUR 260 billion) and greater spending on social security programmes (1.2% of GDP or EUR 170 billion), with the rest being direct spending on health care (1.3% of GDP or EUR 190 billion). The heavy burdens of mental illness on individuals and society are not inevitable, good policies and practices do exist and are in place in many European countries, but much more can still be done to promote and better manage mental health.




The inaugural Global Mental Health Summit was held in London on Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 October 2018. The Summit was co-hosted by the OECD and the Government of the United Kingdom, and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Summit brought together political leaders with innovators, experts-by-experience, policy makers and civil society to share the most innovative and effective approaches to improving mental health. The overall theme for the Summit was Mental Health Equality in the 21st Century.

The OECD hosted the ‘Children, young people and the now generation’ workshop which recognised the significant consequences mental ill health and psycho-social disability can have children and young people – impacting upon their development, contributing to poorer educational outcomes, higher rates of unemployment, and poorer physical health.


For children and young people today, being online and using social media have become an integral part of their lives. This reliance on digital technology has fuelled concerns from parents, teachers, governments and young people themselves that digital technologies and social media are exacerbating feelings of anxiety and depression, disturbing sleep patterns, leading to cyber-bullying and distorting body image. As the rapid take-up of digital technologies and social media by children and young people continues, it is crucial to adopt an approach that minimises the risks without restricting the considerable opportunities and benefits digital technologies and social media have to offer. On 9 October, the OECD launched a Policy Brief on Children & Young People’s Mental Health in the Digital Age - Shaping the Future which looks at each of these concerns and provides recommendations.

Since 2017, the OECD is scoping technological, legal and policy developments to ensure the OECD Recommendation for the Protection of Children Online remains relevant in our increasingly digitalised world. On 15-16 October, the OECD co-hosted a Workshop on the Protection of Children in a Connected World with the University of Zurich, supported by the Swiss Government and co-sponsored by the Korean Government, in Zurich. The workshop included international experts from academia, public and private sectors, policy makers, representatives of relevant regional and international organisations, regulators, clinicians and consumers’ associations. The OECD’s review of the Recommendation is ongoing.

The Patient-Reported Indicator SurveyS (PaRIS) initiative

Health systems know very little about whether the health care delivered seeks to improve people’s well-being and their ability to play an active role in society. It is only when we measure outcomes reported by patients themselves – such as quality of life – that important differences in the outcomes of care emerge.

The Patient-Reported Indicator Surveys (PaRIS) initiative addresses these critical information gaps and aims to develop international benchmarks of health system performance as reported by patients themselves, and includes a focus on collecting the experiences and outcomes of users of mental health care services. In areas where patient-reported indicators already exist, the OECD supports countries to accelerate the adoption and reporting of validated, standardised, internationally-comparable patient-reported indicators. A working group on patient-reported indicators for mental health care is one of three international working groups that started in 2018, to discuss and coordinate instruments, definitions and data collection strategies across countries.

In addition, a new set of internationally comparable measures will be developed to help policy makers assess to what extent their policies are on track to make health systems more people-centred, under the OECD Patient-Reported Indicator Surveys (PaRIS) initiative. This new international survey focuses on patients with one or more chronic conditions, including mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, who are living in the community and who are largely treated in primary care or other ambulatory care settings.




Despite the enormous burden that mental ill-health imposes on individuals, their families, society, health systems and the economy, mental health care remains a neglected area of health policy in too many countries. Mental disorders represent a considerable disease burden, and have a significant impact on the lives of the OECD population, and account for considerable direct and indirect costs.

Making Mental Health Count argues that even in those OECD countries with a long history of deinstitutionalisation, there is still a long way to go to make community-based mental health care that achieves good outcomes for people with severe mental illness a reality. The high burden of mental ill health and the accompanying costs in terms of reduced quality of life, loss of productivity, and premature mortality, mean that making mental health count for all OECD countries is a priority.

October 30, 2014 - Official launch of the publication in Korea

Access country profiles designed to complement the analysis provided in the principal publication. The profiles provide a comprehensive picture of the various ways that systems have evolved, improved, assessed and responded to weaknesses, and work to tackle the different challenges that all OECD mental health systems continue to face.




Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental health problems in employment and helping them to perform at work, in bringing those outside of the labour market into it or back to it, and in preventing mental illness at all ages including youth and adolescence.

  • Read more and access the latest reports and data
  • Contact Mr. Christopher Prinz ( in the OECD Skills and Employability Division for further information






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