Objectives: Although there are many published reports about the human cost of schizophrenia, there are far fewer estimates of its economic cost, particularly in Ireland. The aim of this study was to provide a prevalence-based estimate of the costs associated with schizophrenia in Ireland during 2006.
Method: Using standard Cost of Illness (COI) procedures we compiled data from many sources including the Health Research Board, the Department of Health and Children and other government publications. Costs relating to health and social care, informal care, lost productivity, premature mortality and other public expenditures were included. Where national data were unavailable, we used bottom-up data from a geographically defined catchment area study and, in some instances, costs from two catchment areas were averaged. We did not measure human or intangible costs.
Results: The estimated total cost of schizophrenia was €460.6 million in 2006. The direct cost of care was €117.5 million and the burden of indirect costs was €343 million. The cost of lost productivity due to unemployment, absence from work and premature mortality was €277 million. Within indirect costs, the expenditure on informal care borne by families was €43.8 million.
Conclusions: Schizophrenia is not a very common condition but is an expensive one. This is attributable to its young age at onset, relatively low mortality rate and high severity particularly in terms of its impact on future employment. Measures to improve outcomes coupled with measures to improve employment such as supported employment strategies may impact significantly on the cost of schizophrenia. The study is limited because the national unit costs of many variables are not directly available and these Irish data are likely to be an underestimate. However, the results are comparable with a 2005 cost of illness study UK study.