Are We Overdiagnosing Mental Illnesses? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Doctors

Posted: 30 Sep 2021

See all articles by Marieke Bos

Marieke Bos

Swedish House of Finance - Stockholm School of Economics; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Consumer Finance Institute, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Tinbergen Institute

Andrew Hertzberg

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September, 2021

Abstract

Almost two in 10 adults in the U.S. and Europe are, at any moment in time, diagnosed with a mental illness. This paper asks whether mental illness is over- (or under-) diagnosed, by looking at its causal effect on individuals at the margin of diagnosis. We follow all Swedish men born between 1971 and 1983 matched to administrative panel data on health, labor market, wealth and family outcomes to estimate the impact of a mental illness diagnosis on subsequent outcomes. Exploiting the random assignment of 18-year-old men to doctors during military conscription, we find that a mental illness diagnosis for people at the margin increases the future likelihood of death, hospital admittance, being sick from work, and unemployment, while lowering the probability of being married. Using a separate identification strategy, we measure the effect of military service on the same set of outcomes to rule out that the effect of diagnosis in our setting is primarily mediated by altering the probability of serving. Our findings are consistent with the potential over-diagnosis of mental illness

Keywords: Mental Illness, Long-run Effect of a Diagnosis, Economics

JEL Classification: D12, I18, L51, L66

Suggested Citation

Bos, Marieke and Hertzberg, Andrew, Are We Overdiagnosing Mental Illnesses? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Doctors (September, 2021). FRB of Philadelphia Working Paper No. 21-33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3933525 or http://dx.doi.org/10.21799/frbp.wp.2021.33

Marieke Bos (Contact Author)

Swedish House of Finance - Stockholm School of Economics ( email )

Drottninggatan 98
111 60 Stockholm
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.mariekebos.org

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands

Consumer Finance Institute, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Andrew Hertzberg

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
232
PlumX Metrics