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 almost 11 suicides a day.15 It affects people of all ages and backgrounds.
- About 230,000 Ontarians over 18, or 2.2% of the adult 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
- In 2012, suicide accounted for 17% of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14, 28% among youth aged 15 to 19, and 25% among young adults aged 20-24.15
- 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 about 10% of the burden of disease in Ontario, it receives just 7% of health care dollars.8 Relative to this burden, mental health care in Ontario is underfunded by about $1.5 billion.8, 31
- The Mental Health Strategy for Canada recommends raising the proportion of health spending that is devoted to mental health to 9% by 2022.22
- 17% of Canadians aged 15 or older report having a mental health care need in the past year; one third of those individuals report that their needs were not fully met.3 The rate is even higher for children and youth.23
- In 2013-2014, 5% of ED visits and 18% of inpatient hospitalizations for children and youth age 5 to 24 in Canada were for a mental disorder.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
- A small proportion of all health care patients account for a disproportionately large share of health care costs. Patients with high mental health costs incur over 30% more costs than other high-cost patients.29
- 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.30
- A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.9, 31
1 Smetanin et al (2011). The life and economic impact
of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental
Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.
2 Government of Canada
(2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada.
Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Pearson, Janz and Ali (2013). Health at a glance: Mental and substance
use disorders in Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.82-624-X.
4 Rush et al (2008). Prevalence of
co-occurring substance use and other mental disorders in the Canadian
population. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 53: 800-9.
5 Buckley et al (2009). Psychiatric comorbidities and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 35: 383-402.
6 Mawani and Gilmour (2010). Validation of self-rated mental health. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003-X.
Canadian Institute for Health Information (2007). Improving the health
of Canadians: Mental health and homelessness. Ottawa: CIHI.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2015). Global Burden of
Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, 2013. Data retrieved from
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. Retrieved from
10 Lim et al
(2008). A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness
in Canada. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28: 92-8.
11 Chesney, Goodwin
and Fazel (2014). Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental
disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry, 13: 153-60.
Ratnasingham et al (2012). Opening eyes, opening minds: The Ontario
burden of mental illness and addictions. An Institute for Clinical
Evaluative Sciences / Public Health Ontario report. Toronto: ICES.
Whiteford et al (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental
and substance use disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease
Study 2010. Lancet, 382: 1575-86.
14 Gomes et al (2014). The burden of premature opioid-related mortality. Addiction, 109: 1482-8.
15 Statistics Canada (2015). Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada, 2012. CANSIM 102-0561.
Ialomiteanu et al (2014). CAMH Monitor eReport 2013: Substance use,
mental health and well-being among Ontario adults, 1977-2013. CAMH
Research Document Series no. 40. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and
17 Navaneelan (2012). Suicide rates, an overview, 1950 to 2009. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.
Health Canada (2015). First Nations & Inuit health – mental health
and wellness. Retrieved from
Canadian Medical Association (2008). 8th annual National Report Card on
Health Care. Retrieved from
20 Bell (2015). Bell Let’s Talk: The first 5 years (2010-2015). Retrieved from http://letstalk.bell.ca/letstalkprogressreport
Dewa (2014). Worker attitudes towards mental health problems and
disclosure. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, 5: 175-86.
22 Mental Health Commission of Canada (2012).
Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for
Canada. Calgary: MHCC.
23 Waddell et al (2005). A public health
strategy to improve the mental health of Canadian children. Canadian
Journal of Psychiatry, 50: 226-33.
24 Canadian Institute for Health Information (2015). Care for children and youth with mental disorders. Ottawa: CIHI.
Dewa and McDaid (2010). Investing in the mental health of the labor
force: Epidemiological and economic impact of mental health disabilities
in the workplace. In Work Accommodation and Retention in Mental Health
(Schultz and Rogers, eds.). New York: Springer.
26 Marwaha and
Johnson (2004). Schizophrenia and employment: A review. Social
Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 39: 337-49.
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.
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.”
Oliveira et al (2016). Patients with high mental health costs incur over
30% more costs than other high-cost patients. Health Affairs, 35: 36-43.
30 Rehm et al (2006). The costs of substance use in Canada, 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
31 Roberts and Grimes (2011). Return on investment: Mental health
promotion and mental illness prevention. A Canadian Policy Network /
Canadian Institute for Health Information report. Ottawa: CIHI.