Research reveals the alarming economic cost of postnatal depression

Deloitte Access Economics Report photo families and kidsDeloitte Access Economics Report “Cost of Perinatal Depression in Australia”


Over 1800 Australian parents each week are now diagnosed with antenatal or postnatal depression, with the illnesses costing Australia close to half a billion dollars this year, ground-breaking research from PANDA, the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, has revealed. The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, and PANDA today released the Deloitte Access Economics research in the lead-up to Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (18-24 Nov).

PANDA and Minister Butler called on all Australians to help increase awareness of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the first year after the birth of a baby (the perinatal period), as well as the support services available for people across the country.

The “Cost of Perinatal Depression in Australia ” report shows that perinatal depression will affect nearly 100,000 new parents in 2012. This includes 1 in 7 new mothers and 1 in 20 new fathers. The report also outlines the $433.52M cost to the Australian economy. It is the first of its kind to put a financial value on the cost of perinatal depression in Australia.

The report shows that in 2012:

  • Lost productivity due to perinatal depression will cost Australian workplaces $310.34M, with costs substantially higher for men than for women.
  • Government and private direct health care costs of $78.66M (including primary care, psychiatrist and allied health services, medications, hospital, and community mental health services).
  • Costs to the wider community of $44.53M resulting from direct expenditure on health services for people with perinatal depression and forgone taxation revenue due to lost earnings.

PANDA CEO Belinda Horton said the report clearly outlined the impact of perinatal depression on the Australian economy. “These figures show in black and white that perinatal depression is a far reaching and costly issue in our community. “It is affecting government, business, the health system, whole families as well as mothers, fathers and children.  It impacts directly on worker productivity, family financial stability, community wellbeing and quality of life,” Belinda said.

Belinda Horton added, “This report is a significant piece of new research in perinatal mental health in Australia and will help governments and organisations across the country to better understand the effects on individuals, families, private and public healthcare, businesses and the community.”

A key finding of the research is that lost productivity due to perinatal depression will conservatively cost Australian businesses more than $310M. The total amount is likely to be even higher as the productivity and forgone revenue of informal care provided by partners, families and friends could not be calculated due to the lack of available data.  Surprisingly, lost productivity from perinatal depression is significantly higher for men with a diagnosis of antenatal and postnatal depression than for women due to higher average earnings for men and time out of the workforce for women after birth.

Mr Butler congratulated PANDA on the new report saying postnatal and antenatal depression took an enormous toll on individuals and the entire community stood to benefit from efforts to raise awareness and provide early intervention and support to new parents in need of help. “Being a new mum or dad can be the most rewarding experience of a person’s life, but it can also be an enormously challenging time for many parents,” Mr Butler said. “As a nation, we’ve taken big strides to raise awareness and increase the support available through the National Perinatal Depression Initiative and the great work of organisations like PANDA, but many young parents still don’t feel comfortable seeking help and aren’t getting the support they need.” "This report also reminds us that both mums and dads can experience depression after a child is born so we need to raise awareness and break down the stigma so that all parents feel comfortable speaking up and seeking support.”

While the lost productivity costs of men supporting partners diagnosed with postnatal depression could not be calculated, we know that fathers are under enormous stress in keeping their families together as shown by the experience of Simon Briggs, a father of two.

Simon took a significant time off work to care for his family when his wife was diagnosed with postnatal depression. “I had many days when I’d get a phone call from my wife crying so hard she couldn’t speak and I just had to cancel meetings, drop everything at work and come home. And once she was admitted to hospital I had to take carers leave to look after our son until he could join her in a mother baby unit. “It was terrifying watching my wife fall apart. Trying to understand it whilst worrying about Anna, working and keeping the day to day running of the household going was an incredibly difficult time. Work dropped down my list of priorities and my productivity went down significantly. It was emotionally and physically draining and I was really lucky in having an understanding employer and colleagues,” Simon said.

PANDA is urging employers to watch all new mothers and fathers returning to work and proactively offer assistance and flexibility where required.  Warning signs to watch out for could include patterns of absenteeism as well as a lack of engagement and productivity at work. This may occur particularly in new fathers who may not reach out for assistance. This can indicate a short-term need for additional workplace flexibility and support until his partner is more able to manage.  Ideally the new father would be able to seek this assistance from his employer but this remains a difficult conversation in many workplaces.

Belinda Horton said “Perinatal depression has consequences not just for the Australian economy but also for the extended families of new parents diagnosed with perinatal depression.  Grandparents, siblings and friends are often required to provide extensive support and assistance to the new parents and to their babies and older children to help keep the family together until the parent has recovered.  The actual cost of this informal care is unknown and often goes unaccounted. Although close to 100,000 Australians will be diagnosed with perinatal depression in 2012, PANDA warns that the issue is still significantly under reported and the economic and social costs in Australia may be much higher.  Belinda Horton said, “The signs are not always black and white and many cases are still going unrecognised, unsupported and untreated, leaving countless new parents suffering in silence”.

The research announcement is part of PANDA’s nationalawareness campaign“Postnatal Depression – It’s Not All Black and White”. The campaign encourages all Australians to know the signs of postnatal depression and act quickly to help new mothers and fathers.

Belinda Horton said, “Help is available and early intervention and the right support lead to faster recovery. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to learn the signs at and take action quickly by calling our national helpline if they are concerned.”

PANDA’s free National Perinatal Depression Helpline offers counseling, information and referral services with ongoing telephone support for families throughout Australia. PANDA has been raising awareness of antenatal and postnatal depression for over 28 years and has helped tens of thousands of Australians get vital information, support and treatment to aid their recovery.

People concerned about post or antenatal depression can call PANDA’s Helpline 1300 726 306
(the Helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm EST).


Click here to make a donation to PANDA


Media enquiries
For interview opportunities with PANDA’s CEO Belinda Horton and first person accounts of postnatal depression,
please contact Claire Macfarlane at Square One PR, M: 0409 423 262



About Deloitte Access Economics


Deloitte Access Economics is Australia’s pre-eminent economics advisory practice and a member of Deloitte's global economics group.


Cost of Perinatal Depression in Australia - Report Summary 1.69 Mb

1. Prevalence of Perinatal Depression


Maternal Perinatal Depression

Paternal Perinatal Depression



Prevalence 2012

71,177 expecting & new mothers

24,979 expecting & new fathers

96,156 expecting & new parents

2. Financial costs associated with Perinatal Depression

Including Direct costs (related to expenditure on health care services) and Indirect costs (including those related to productivity losses and the costs of informal care).


Maternal Perinatal Depression

Paternal Perinatal Depression



DIRECT COSTS - Direct health and social services costs

Primary care costs (GP, pathology)

Psychiatrist and Allied health services



Community mental health services

$60.68 million


$17.97 million

$78.65 million

INDIRECT COSTS – productivity costs due to perinatal depression in 2012

Productivity costs

$86.59 million

$223.75 million

$310.34 million

Informal care costs

No costs available

No costs available

No costs


Cost to wider economy

$23.56 million


$44.53 million

TOTALS – direct health care costs, indirect health care costs, productivity losses and costs to the wider economy

Total economic costs of Perinatal Depression

$170.84 million

$262.69 million


$433.52 million


3. Burden of disease associated with Perinatal Depression

This measures lost quality of life among people with Perinatal Depression. It is measured in non-financial terms, based on the disability adjusted life year (DALY). This relates to years of life lived in disability.


Maternal Perinatal Depression

Paternal Perinatal Depression


DALYs – years lost to disability

Years of healthy life lost

0.88 years

0.67 years





Total DALYs

= 20,732



State and Territory prevalence rates – Perinatal Depression for Women and Men



% of National population

Maternal Perinatal Depression

Paternal Perinatal Depression


TOTAL new parents





8, 244































































While PANDA has exercised due care in ensuring the accuracy of the material contained on this website, the information is made available on the basis that PANDA is not providing professional advice on a particular matter. This website is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.