• Approximately US $3.7 billion a year is spent on mental health research worldwide. Given a global population of 7.7 billion people in 2019, this equates to a paltry 50 cents per person per year invested in mental health research.
  • Mental health research spending is characterized by various inequities.
  • Addressing this vast unmet need requires research, firstly, to guide an understanding of the basic biomedical, psychological and social processes that lead to mental ill-health, and secondly, to discover implementable and affordable interventions that can either prevent such ill-health or provide effective treatment options.
  • Research requires funding, which can be scarce and subject to competing endeavors.  For this reason, those responsible for allocating research funds need to be cognizant of the impact of their policies on the future of the mental health of the world’s population.
  • By setting funding levels and designing funding programs, policymakers and funders directly influence what kind of research is being conducted, where and by whom, and at what scale.
  • Mental health research funders are a vital component  as the discoveries and innovations that they support are critical for our understanding of mental illness and the development of better interventions and care.
  • The mental health and wellbeing of citizens depend on the engagement of all key players and the astute coordination of their efforts.
  • This is the unique proposition to unite research funders and build bridges to other key stakeholder groups to create an integrated mental health ecosystem that improves the livelihood of those 450 million people who suffer from mental ill-health.
  • The allocation of research funding can benefit significantly from both the view of what kind of research is being conducted and from a robust analysis of what has led to desired outcomes and impacts.
  • In turn, these analyses can help advocacy initiatives and demonstrate accountability to taxpayers and donors. Capturing and mapping data on the inputs, processes, outputs, outcomes and impacts of research is crucial for these analyses.
  • Research into mental health is underfunded compared to other (physical) diseases. Both cancer research (19.0%) and infectious disease research (17.5%) received more than twice as much global investment as mental health research (7.4%).
  • Specific fields of mental health research– notably self-harm and suicide, eating, conduct, obsessive-compulsive and personality disorders– are underfunded compared to other fields such as substance use and dependence, and depression.
  • Research related to substance use and dependence received the most funds at an approximate average of US$700 million per year (or 19% of the total), followed by depression with close to US$320 million per year (or 9%). Eating, conduct, obsessive-compulsive and personality disorders, and self-harm each received under US$25 million per year, or less than 1% of the total expenditure.
  • Self-harm and suicide account for over half of all years of life lost due to mental illness, yet the analysis shows it received one of the lowest levels of funding.
  • Both cancer research and infectious disease research received more than twice as much global investment as mental health research.
  • The majority of mental health research investment is on basic research, rather than clinical/applied research. Over half (56%) of funded mental health research was in basic discovery science. By contrast, the studies into prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions were significantly underfunded, jointly accounting for just 17% of global investments.
  • Of particular concern is the lack of investments into prevention, which accounted for less than 7% of investments, and the evaluation of treatments, which would include randomized controlled trials (RCTs), only received 12% of funding.
  • The young are not the focus of mental health research investments, despite anticipated long-term benefits of intervening at this age. Most investments in mental health research funding were focused on adults and compared with young people (33%) and the elderly (5%). This is significant because around 75% of all mental illnesses manifest by the age of 24 years, and the onset of most mood, personality, eating and substance use conditions occur within a small-time frame between adolescence and young .
  • Mental health research is underfunded compared to other disease areas, in the context of disease burden. This gap should be reduced with additional funding, rather than redistribution of existing funding sources.
  • This inequity is even starker in the context of the burden of disease, as measured through YLD and YLL . Depression and substance use account for the highest levels of morbidity burden, which, to a degree, justify current levels of research investment.
  • More striking is the underfunding of self-harm and suicide, which, despite causing over half of years of life lost to mental illness, receive only a small fraction of mental health research funding.


Sources listed on pages 61-62

Sources also listed on             “Inequities and Disparities Within Mental Health Research and Funding”