14 November 2018

Health inequalities: Unequal access to mental healthcare remains a reality in Europe

The European Commission just launched its new report “Inequalities in access to healthcare – A study of National Policies” which looks at the state of healthcare coverage across Europe (35 countries). The report highlights significant inequalities in access to healthcare and points out the need to improve the unequal access to mental healthcare in most European countries.


Mental Health Europe (MHE) is concerned that mental healthcare remains dependent on high out-of-pocket payments in most European countries, which leads to even greater health and social inequalities for people living with mental ill health. The report also shows a lack of investment in preventive and mental health care in more than 10 European countries.


The report identifies women aged 50+ as the group in the most vulnerable situation in European countries, and associate this situation with unemployment, socio-economic vulnerability and mental health problems.


The European Union (EU) has recently taken important commitments to make Europe more social and accessible through the adoption of the United Nations Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose target 3.4 aims to promote mental health and well-being and the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), whose principle 16 establishes that “Everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality.”


This report comes at the right time, when the EU currently discusses its 2021-2027 budget, which will provide funding to help Member States achieve the SDGs and implement the Social Pillar. These two instruments are invaluable tools to address the inequalities highlighted in this report and improve the lives of millions of European citizens.


MHE calls on the EU and its Member States to deliver on these commitments by:


  • Adopting a lifespan approach to healthcare and specifically mental healthcare when designing policies, so to ensure no groups are left behind.
  • Investing in affordable and accessible mental health support and easy to navigate services for all.
  • Addressing education, early childhood development, housing, employment, violence and poverty as determinants of mental health and inequalities in mental health.
  • Allocating adequate funding to implement and honour the EU’s recent social and human rights commitments.

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