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, and addictive behaviours such as substance use and problem gambling. Mental illness and addictions can be associated with distress and/or impairment of functioning, and symptoms vary from mild to severe.
- In any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.1
- About 20% of people with a mental disorder have a co-occurring substance use problem.2
Who is affected?
- 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.3
- Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.4
- Men have higher rates of addiction than women, while women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders.4
- Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report fair to poor mental health.5
- Studies in various Canadian cities indicate that between 23% and 67% of homeless people report having a mental illness.6
- Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year – an average of 11 suicides a day.7
- More than 75% of suicides involve men, but women attempt suicide 3 to 4 times more often.7, 8
- After accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10-19. Suicide accounts for 11% of deaths among youth aged 10-14 and 23% of deaths among youth aged 15-19.7
- 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.9
Access to services
- While mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the burden of disease in Canada, these illnesses receive less than 6% of health care dollars.10
- Almost a third of Canadians who seek mental health care report that their needs are unmet or partially met.4 The rate is even higher for children and youth.11
- 60% of family physicians rank access to psychiatrists in Ontario as fair to poor.12
- 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.13
- 42% of Canadians are unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness.13
- A majority of Canadians (55%) say they would be unlikely to enter a spousal relationship with someone who has a mental illness.13
- 46% of Canadians think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% say they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.13
Costs to society
- Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature death in Canada.11
- 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 disorders14 plus
- approximately 175,000 full-time workers absent from work due to mental illness.15
- 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.16
- The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together. This includes years lived with less than full function and years lost to early death.17
- Tobacco is the leading cause of premature mortality in Canada. Evidence suggests that smoking is responsible for about 17% of all deaths.18
- In Ontario the annual cost of alcohol-related health care, law enforcement, corrections, lost productivity, and other problems is estimated to be $5.3 billion.19
1 Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041.
2 Rush et al (2008). Prevalence of Co-occurring Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders in the Canadian Population.
3 Government of Canada (2006). The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada.
4 Statistics Canada (2013). Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health.
5 Statistics Canada (2003). Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health.
6 Canadian Institute for Health Information (2007). Improving the Health of Canadians: Mental Health and Homelessness.
7 Statistics Canada (2012). Mortality, Summary List of Causes 2009.
8 Statistics Canada (2012). Suicide Rates, an Overview, 1950 to 2009.
9 Health Canada (2012). First Nations & Inuit Health – Mental Health and Wellness.
10 Institute of Health Economics (2008). How Much Should We Spend on Mental Health?
11 Waddell et al (2005). A Public Health Strategy to Improve the Mental Health of Canadian Children.
12 National Physician Survey (2010).
13 Canadian Medical Association (2008). 8th Annual National Report Card on Health Care.
14 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.
15 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.”
16 Dewa et al (2008). A New Population-Based Measure of the Burden of Mental Illness in Canada.
17 Ratnasingham et al (2012). Opening Eyes, Opening Minds: The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness and Addictions.
18 Rehm et al. (2006). The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada, 2002.