Huge Costs of Perinatal Depression To Be Shouldered By Future Generations

Huge Costs of Perinatal Depression To Be Shouldered By Future Generations

A new health-economic analysis prepared by PwC, The cost of perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia, has just been released [1]. The analysis was commissioned with contributions from Gidget Foundation Australia, Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Australia (PANDA), Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness and the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre. PIRI researchers were among the first to point to the wider negative repercussions of perinatal depression and anxiety [2, 3]. As research in Australia and all over the world has confirmed, these resonate far beyond the immediate impact on the mental health of parents, and are especially relevant to the development and wellbeing of infants and children. Now, PwC Australia have prepared the most comprehensive analysis yet of the fuller cost to Australia in terms of health, productivity and wellbeing [1]. The results are sobering. Over 300,000 families have a new baby every year in Australia and 20% of mums and 10% of dads will struggle with depression, anxiety or both. Considering these families, in the first year of life alone, the new modelling estimates that the wider costs will approach 1 billion dollars. A massive burden. But it is when the analysis is extended to include the impact over a lifetime that the effects on children emerge as by far the biggest. Future problems, for example with ADHD, depression and anxiety, mean that the extended lifetime impact on families will cost $7.3 billion. That’s $7.3 billion over the lifetime of each yearly cohort of births; and the next year’s cohort…and the next year’s…and the next… These figures are in line with leading analyses from similar developed economies, such as the UK [4], which also show that the enduring impact on children’s development and wellbeing constitute the largest costs to society. In fact, the true figure may be even higher, as the new Australian modelling was not able to put a firm cost on the well-established consequences of perinatal depression and anxiety for children’s neurodevelopment and cognitive development.

This new health-economic information makes it more urgent than ever that we have a national, evidence-based response. We believe that real headway in tackling this problem can be made through prevention beginning in pregnancy and infancy [5, 6], by integrating depression screening with clear pathways to care, and by making better, evidence-based treatments more accessible.

That’s why PIRI is committed to increasing the recognition of perinatal depression and anxiety and to developing programs that ensure that all families can be connected to the effective, evidence-based supports that they need for good perinatal mental health and to appropriate supports for healthy parent-infant attachment [7] (click here and here to read more about PIRI’s specialist mother-infant programs).

Doctor Alan Gemmill, Director Research, PIRI.


1. Gidget Foundation, Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Australia (PANDA), Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness, and Perinatal Wellbeing Centre. The cost of perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia, 2019, Report prepared by PwC Consulting: Australia.
2. Milgrom, J. Mother-infant interactions in postpartum depression: an early intervention program, Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 1996, 11 (4), 29-38.
3. Milgrom, J., D. Westley, and A.W. Gemmill. The mediating role of maternal responsiveness in some longer-term effects of postnatal depression on infant development, Infant Behavior & Development, 2004. 27: p. 443-454.
4. Bauer, A., Parsonage, M., Knapp, M., Iemmi, V., & Adelaja, B.). The costs of perinatal mental health problems, 2014, London School of Economics and the Centre for Mental Health: London.
5. Milgrom J, Holt CJ, Bleker LS, Holt C, Ross J, Ericksen J, Glover V, O’Donnell KJ, de Rooij SR, Gemmill AW. Maternal antenatal mood and child development: an exploratory study of treatment effects on child outcomes up to 5 years. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health & Disease, 2019, 10(2):221-231.
6. Bleker LS, Milgrom J, Sexton-Oates A, Roseboom TJ, Gemmill AW, Holt CJ, Saffery R, Burger H, de Rooij SR. Exploring the effect of antenatal depression treatment on children’s epigenetic profiles: findings from a pilot randomized controlled trial. Clinical Epigenetics, 2019, 11(1):18.
7. Ericksen J, Loughlin E, Holt C, Rose N, Hartley E, Buultjens M, Gemmill AW, Milgrom J.
A Therapeutic Playgroup for Depressed Mothers and Their Infants: Feasibility Study and Pilot Randomized Trial of Community HUGS. Infant Mental Health Journal, 2018, 39(4):396-409.