Monday, May 23, 2011

Depression deserves government support

by Bethany Hansen

Why having happy children may be the best way to reduce long-term healthcare costs.

According to, nearly a quarter of federal expenditures go to healthcare. And the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that healthcare spending as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will increase from its current rate of 15 percent to nearly 50 percent by 2082. Government officials at all levels should keep these figures in mind when considering policies about mental health. A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses a study which found that treating depressed mothers helps their children too.

Depression in children, the article says, often manifests itself as anxiety, irritableness, and disruptive behavior—and surely these symptoms cause chain reactions such as doing poorly in school or losing friends. Also,

Children are particularly vulnerable to parents' depression in the first year of life when their brains are rapidly forming connections. When parents are withdrawn or unresponsive, attachment and bonding are affected.

"As early as two months of age, the infant looks at the depressed mother less often, shows less engagement with objects [and] has a lower activity level," a report last year in the journal Pediatrics says.

So from the very beginning, children of depressed mothers are put at a disadvantage. Governments have an interest in having productive, happy citizens as well as in saving health care costs. Treating depressed mothers may have a dual advantage of benefiting depressed children, which may be a worthwhile investment.


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