Economic impact of youth mental health services in the UK

Canaway, A. & Sampson, C. The Mental Elf Blog. Published online: 18th March 2016.

Analysis of: Knapp M, Ardino V, Brimblecombe N, Evans-Lacko S, Iemmi V, King D, Snell T (2016) Youth Mental Health: New Economic Evidence. LSE Personal Social Services Research Unit.
Image source: Tax Credits // CC BY 2.0

Young people are at increased risk of mental health problems; the majority of which start in adolescence and persist into adulthood. The impacts are far-reaching, with consequences for educational, social and economic outcomes as well as poor health behaviours that further impact on mental and physical health. It’s also important to take into account the wider impact on friends and family, and the costs associated with health and social care services as well as education and criminal justice costs.

Maybe this is why there hasn’t been much comprehensive research on the impact of youth mental health services – it’s too complicated. This lack of research and understanding might also contribute to the underdiagnosis and unmet need that can be observed for young people with, or at risk of experiencing, mental health problems. In 2004 only 25% of children with mental illness were in treatment; a statistic that did not seem to have improved by 2010. In this new report, Martin Knapp and colleagues seek to address the dearth of findings for broader mental health services for young people, with a focus on economic outcomes.


  • There is a major gap in service provision for young people with mental health problems, which may in part be due to failures in transition
  • Like much research before it, this study was hampered by limitations in the available data
  • Future research should focus on the cost-effectiveness of specialist services, with attention paid to the costs falling on the education sector.

Read the full analysis here


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