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For Reporters Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics

The terms ‘mental illness’ and ‘addiction’ refer to a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, as well as substance use disorders and problem gambling. Mental illness and addictions can be associated with distress and/or impairment of functioning. Symptoms vary from mild to severe.


  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.1

Who is affected?

  • 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.2
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.3
  • Men have higher rates of addiction than women, while women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders.3
  • People with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population. At least 20% of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring substance use problem.4 For people with schizophrenia, the number may be as high as 50%.5
  • Similarly, people with substance use problems are up to 3 times more likely to have a mental illness. More than 15% of people with a substance use problem have a co-occurring mental illness.4
  • Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.6
  • Studies in various Canadian cities indicate that between 23% and 67% of homeless people report having a mental illness.7

Morbidity and mortality

  • Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada.8, 9, 10
  • People with mental illness and addictions are more likely to die prematurely than the general population. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy.11
  • The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases. This includes years lived with less than full function and years lost to early death.12
  • Tobacco, the most widely used addictive substance, is the leading cause of premature mortality in Canada. Evidence suggests that smoking is responsible for nearly 17% of all deaths.13
  • Among Ontarians aged 25 to 34, 1 of every 8 deaths is related to opioid use.14
  • Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year – an average of more than 10 suicides a day.15 It affects people of all ages and backgrounds.
    • About 230,000 Ontarians, or 2.2% of the population, report having seriously contemplated suicide in the past year.16
    • More than 75% of suicides involve men, but women attempt suicide 3 to 4 times more often.15, 17
    • Suicide accounts for 13% of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14 and 25% of deaths among youth aged 15 to 19. After accidents, it is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 34.15
    • More than half of suicides involve people aged 45 or older.15
    • First Nations youth die by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Aboriginal youth. Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.18


  • According to a 2008 survey:
    • Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68% who would talk about a family member having diabetes.19
    • 42% of Canadians were unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness.19
    • 55% of Canadians said they would be unlikely to enter a spousal relationship with someone who has a mental illness.19
    • 46% of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.19
  • In 2015:
    • 57% believe that the stigma associated with mental illness has been reduced compared to 5 years ago.20
    • 81% are more aware of mental health issues compared to 5 years ago.20
    • 70% believe attitudes about mental health issues have changed for the better compared to 5 years ago.20
  • But stigma remains:
    • 64% of Ontario workers would be concerned about how work would be affected if a colleague had a mental illness.21
    • 39% of Ontario workers indicate that they would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem.21

Access to services

  • While mental illness accounts for more than 10% of the burden of disease in Canada, it receives just 7% of health care dollars. The Mental Health Strategy for Canada recommends raising the proportion of health spending that is devoted to mental health to 9% by 2022.8, 22
  • Almost a third of Canadians who seek mental health care report that their needs are unmet or partially met.3 The rate is even higher for children and youth.23
  • Between 2006 and 2014:
    • rates of emergency department visits for mental disorders among children and youth (age 5 to 24) increased by 45% 24
    • rates of inpatient hospitalizations that involved at least one overnight stay for mental disorders among children and youth increased by 37% 24

Costs to society

  • Individuals with a mental illness are much less likely to be employed.25 Unemployment rates are as high as 70% to 90% for people with the most severe mental illnesses.26
  • In any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems. This includes:
    • approximately 355,000 disability cases due to mental and/or behavioural disorders27 plus
    • approximately 175,000 full-time workers absent from work due to mental illness.28
  • The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life.1, 10
  • In Ontario the annual cost of alcohol-related health care, law enforcement, corrections, lost productivity, and other problems is estimated to be at least $5 billion.29
  • A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.9, 30



1 Smetanin et al (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041.

2 Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada.

sup>3 Statistics Canada (2013). Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health.

4 Rush et al (2008). Prevalence of co-occurring substance use and other mental disorders in the Canadian population.

5 Buckley et al (2009). Psychiatric comorbidities and schizophrenia.

6 Statistics Canada (2003). Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health.

7 Canadian Institute for Health Information (2007). Improving the health of Canadians: Mental health and homelessness.

8 Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2015). Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, 2013.

9 Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Why investing in mental health will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity and to the sustainability of our health care system.

10 Lim et al (2008). A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.

11 Chesney, Goodwin and Fazel (2014). Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review.

12 Ratnasingham et al (2012). Opening eyes, opening minds: The Ontario burden of mental illness and addictions.

13 Whiteford et al (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

14 Gomes et al (2014). The burden of premature opioid-related mortality.

15 Statistics Canada (2014). Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, 2011.

16 Ialomiteanu et al (2014). CAMH Monitor eReport 2013: Substance use, mental health and well-being among Ontario adults, 1977-2013.

17 Statistics Canada (2012). Suicide rates, an overview, 1950 to 2009.

18 Health Canada (2012). First Nations & Inuit health – mental health and wellness.

19 Canadian Medical Association (2008). 8th annual National Report Card on Health Care.

20 Bell (2015). Bell Let’s Talk: The first 5 years (2010-2015).

21 Dewa (2014). Worker attitudes towards mental health problems and disclosure.

22 Mental Health Commission of Canada (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada.

23 Waddell et al (2005). A public health strategy to improve the mental health of Canadian children.

24 Canadian Institute for Health Information (2015). Care for children and youth with mental disorders.

25 Dewa and McDaid (2010). Investing in the mental health of the labor force: Epidemiological and economic impact of mental health disabilities in the workplace.

26 Marwaha and Johnson (2004). Schizophrenia and employment: A review.

27 Calculated from data in Dewa, Chau, and Dermer (2010), “Examining the comparative incidence and costs of physical and mental health-related disabilities in an employed population,” and Statistics Canada employment data.

28 Calculated from data in Institute of Health Economics (2007), “Mental health economics statistics in your pocket,” and Statistics Canada – Labour Statistics Division (2011), “Work absence rates 2010.”

29 Rehm et al (2006). The costs of substance use in Canada, 2006.

30 Canadian Policy Network (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention.


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