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Perinatal mental illness an $877m blow

Alex Druce
Workplaces that support new parents have an economic advantage, according to health advocates

Perinatal health advocates say there's an $877 million annual incentive for Australian workplaces to better support new and expectant parents struggling with their mental health.

Each year in Australia, one in five mothers and one in 10 fathers or partners experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the year after the baby is born - increasing the risk of family breakdowns.

But new analysis published on the eve of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week shows the toll on the economy alone amounts to a staggering $643 million during the first year of a baby's life, plus another $234 million impact on health and wellbeing.

That hit from factors such as lost productivity, absenteeism, and workforce exits blows out to another $1.2 billion across years two and three.

The new PwC Australia analysis - prepared for Gidget Foundation Australia - said the annual cost demonstrates a need to ensure families are supported during early parenthood.

"The findings are staggering but not unexpected given that the perinatal period, during pregnancy and the first year after birth, is a time of great change for both parents," says Viv Kissane, chief executive of Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness.

"We believe understanding the cost of perinatal depression and anxiety to Australia will assist with awareness raising to help ensure families are receiving the support they need."

Peach Tree and Gidget, along with PANDA Australia and the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre, have banded together to form the Perinatal Mental Health Consortium to bring the issue front and centre.

Australia's $877 million annual bill for perinatal depression and anxiety also includes significant health costs of $227 million, comprising of increased use of primary, community and hospital services and increased risk of certain health conditions for both the parent and child.

Further, the annual cost includes $7 million in wellbeing impacts such as increased likelihood of developmental issues, depression, anxiety and child ADHD diagnoses.

Marty Jovic, Partner in Health Economics and Policy at PwC Australia, said the findings would help to demonstrate the scale and breadth of the challenges in responding to perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia, and highlight the prevention, early intervention, and tailored treatment options available.

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