Sep 29, 2022 - News

Youth driving mental health spending

Distribution of health care spending across enrolled population in 2020, by age group
Data: Fronstin, et al., 2022, "Use of Health Care Services for Mental Health Disorders and Spending Trends"; Chart: Axios Visuals

People under 25 are propelling a slow and steady increase in mental health and addiction spending, per a new Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) report.

Why it matters: Mental health is a weighty, but still stigmatized and costly, piece of the American health care system.

Driving the news: EBRI's seven-year survey of employer-sponsored health plans found mental health and addiction spending among all age groups rose from 6.8% of total costs in 2013 to 8.2% in 2020, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • People under 25 are driving the trend: While they're 36% of the population, they accounted for 42% of spending on mental health and addiction in 2020, but just 20% of overall health care spending.
  • Average spending by enrollees with a mental health diagnosis on outpatient services is going up, jumping 37% from 2013 to 2020 to an average of $1,597 a year. Overall health costs rose 20% in the same period.

Zoom in: Nearly 30% of adult Michiganders — about 2.4 million people — reported anxiety or depression symptoms last year, per the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

  • Just over 6% reported alcohol use disorder and 2.7% illicit drug use disorder as of 2018-19.

State of play: People under 18 are emerging as the country's biggest mental health consumers, per EBRI, and a nationwide youth mental health crisis was declared last year.

  • Michiganders ages 12 to 17 reported a "major depressive episode" at double the rate of adults (16.5% vs. 8.2%), KFF reports as of 2018-19.
  • The majority of Detroit Public Schools Community District students reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

Yes, but: Many young people still feel stigma in seeking treatment. When they get it, teenagers can be hard to engage with in traditional therapy because they "respond better to virtual care, apps, things like that," Philip Lanzisera, clinical psychologist and director of psychotherapy at Henry Ford Health, tells Axios.

Reality check: Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network saw youth and young adult treatment decline or hold steady over the last two years, chief clinical officer Melissa Moody tells Axios.

💭 Annalise's thought bubble: I'm very vocally in favor of normalizing and improving access to mental health care.

  • We still have a long way to go when it comes to power structures like employers recognizing it as a medical need worth prioritizing, as I wrote in a pretty personal piece last year for Crain's Detroit Business.

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