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Assessing the economic costs of parental mental illness

posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Cathy MihalopoulosCathy Mihalopoulos
The economics discipline is broadly concerned with the allocation of scarce societal resources in the context of unlimited societal wants. Intrinsic to economics is the concept of choice – that is, how can we best use scarce societal resources when our wants are greater than the resources available to us. If we were able to satisfy all our wants and needs with our available resources, there would be no need for the discipline of economics! In most economies, markets are used to make these decisions. Markets are basically a mechanism whereby consumers and producers interact in such a way that the “best” allocation of resources is thought to occur. This “best” allocation of resources in economics is said to be an efficient allocation. Efficiency basically assumes that the correct types of services are being produced (allocative efficiency) in the least resource-intensive way (technical efficiency). Inherent within all these concepts is not just cost but also the benefit derived from the consumption of different goods and services. A central tenant of economics is the concept of opportunity cost whereby the true cost of any given action (or service) is the benefit which would have been attained if the resources used in providing that action or service were used in an alternative way. Therefore, both costs and benefits are central to the economic way of thinking. Contrary to much public perception, economics is not necessarily about cutting costs; rather, it is about using resources in the “best” possible way. Inherent within this idea of “best” is “value,” “benefit,” or “utility” (utility is the term most often seen in economics textbooks to refer to the value of using resources). Unfortunately, there are many assumptions which need to be met for markets to operate in an ideal way. One important assumption is that consumers of goods and services need to be aware of the full impact and consequences of all consumption choices. When market failures occur, governments can sometimes intervene in the operation of markets either because the markets are not working properly (largely because the assumptions underpinning the market mechanism are not met) or for social-justice or equity considerations (Rice and Unruh, 2009).


Chapter number






Publication classification

BN Other book chapter, or book chapter not attributed to Deakin

Copyright notice

2015, Cambridge University Press




Reupert A, Maybery D, Nicholson J, Gopfert M, Seeman MV


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Cambridge, Eng.

Title of book

Parental psychiatric disorder: distressed parents and their families

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