PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to examine the association between non-psychotic serious mental disorders and earnings in the general population of Belgium on both the individual- and society-level. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Data stem from a cross-sectional population study of the non-institutionalized adult (between 18 and 64) population from Belgium (N=863). The third version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI-3.0) was administered to assess 12-month non-psychotic serious mental disorders and annual earnings. Multivariate approaches were used to estimate the observed and estimated annual earnings for persons with serious mental disorders, controlling for sociodemographic variables and alcohol disorders. RESULTS: On the individual-level, 12-month serious mental disorders significantly predicted the probability of having any earnings (OR=0.32; 95%CI=0.14-0.74). Respondents with serious mental disorders had 12-month earnings of 5,969 Euro less than expected in the absence of serious mental disorders. Taking into account the prevalence of serious mental disorders (i.e. 4.9%), the society-level effects of serious mental disorders in 2002 can be estimated at about 1,797 million Euro per year for the Belgian general population. DISCUSSION: Non-psychotic serious mental disorders had considerable impact on annual earnings. CONCLUSION: This is the first study in Belgium that addresses the association between mental illness and earnings. Serious mental disorders are associated with individual- and societal-level impairments and loss of human capital.