By Olivia Bush
In recent years, more attention has been given to the mental well-being of Canadians. While mental health is an important part of a person’s overall well-being, poor mental health often goes unaddressed because many still feel there is a stigma attached to talking about your mental well-being.
This article focuses on mental health statistics in Canada. We have included information on how many Canadians experience mental health conditions, how COVID-19 impacted mental health in Canada, maternal mental health, and suicide in Canada. At the end of the article, we have also included tips on looking after your mental health.
Mental Health Statistics for Canadians
- Half of Canadians will have faced some level of mental health issues by the time they turn 40.
- Younger people in Canada are the group most likely to have a mental health condition.
- Studies have established a clear link between substance abuse and mental health.
- People on the lowest incomes are three to four times as likely to have poor or fair mental health compared to people on the highest incomes.
- Between 23% and 67% of homeless people in Canada have a mental health condition.
- Almost 4,000 people die by suicide in Canada every year.
- The number of Canadians reporting their mental health as good or excellent fell following the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The number of people who feel regularly stressed almost doubled following the pandemic.
- Approximately 1.2 million children and young people in Canada are affected by mental illness.
- Mental health costs the Canadian economy about $50 billion per year.
Definition of Mental Health
Before we get into the statistics on mental health in Canada, it is important to know what mental health is. On its information page on mental health, the Government of Canada states that mental health is “the state of your psychological and emotional well-being.”
It is a main factor in your overall health and a necessary resource for a healthy life. Mental health is not the same as mental illness. However, in the long term, poor mental health can lead to physical and mental illnesses.
When you are feeling well mentally, you are better equipped to cope with challenges and enjoy life. The state of your mental health can be affected by events and experiences, including but not exclusive to the death of a loved one, changes in financial or employment status, changes in relationships, and changes in physical health, such as long-term illness.
Mental Health in Canada
It is estimated that in any given year, 20% of Canadians experience problems with their mental health, and half of the population has faced some level of mental health issues by the time they turn 40.
Data on mental health shows that young people aged 15-24 are the most likely age group to experience mental health issues. For example, studies indicate that 39% of high-school students in Ontario have experienced some level of anxiety or depression.
Men in Canada are more likely than women to have disorders linked to substance use. However, Canadian women have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders. People who have long-term physical health conditions are more likely to have mental health conditions than those who are physically well.
Mental Health and Substance Use
Studies have shown that there is a clear connection between mental health and substance use. Compared to the general population, people who have a mental illness are twice as likely to misuse substances. 20% of people diagnosed with a mental illness misuse substances. Substance disorders are even higher among people diagnosed with schizophrenia, where they may be as high as 50%.
The connection also works the other way, with people who abuse substances almost three times more likely to have a mental health condition. 15% of people who have a substance use disorder also have a mental illness.
Mental Health and Economic Status
People in Canada are more likely to have poor mental health if they belong to the group with the lowest income. Canadians in this group are three to four times more likely to report their mental health as poor or fair than people in the highest income group.
Mental Health and Homelessness in Canada
Studies of homelessness in Canada have established a link between homelessness and mental health. While it is difficult to get an exact figure due to the nature of homelessness and the number of hidden homeless in Canada, it is estimated that 23% to 67% of homeless people in Canada are affected by mental health conditions.
Suicide in Canada
In 2020, there were 3,839 suicides in Canada, which, on average, is almost 11 per day. While it affects people from all backgrounds and ages, it is more prevalent among certain age groups. According to Statista, Canadians aged 55-59 are the most likely to commit suicide, with 15.3 deaths by suicide per 100,000 population, while those aged 10-14 are the least likely, with a rate of 1.8. Overall, over half of the suicides in Canada involve people 45 or older.
While people in their mid to late fifties have the highest rate of suicide in Canada, the rates fall after retirement age. However, they rise to 12.5 per 100,000 population in the 85-89 age group.
Over three-quarters of suicides in Canada involve men. However, women attempt suicide more often than men. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds after accidents in Canada. Suicide rates are higher among Indigenous and Inuit youth. Young people from First Nations are six times more likely, and Inuit youth are 24 times more likely to die by suicide than the national average.
COVID and Mental Health
COVID-19 had a clear impact on the mental health of Canadians. Before the pandemic, 73.4% of Canadians rated their mental health as good or excellent, compared to 59% in 2021. In contrast, the percentage of Canadians rating their mental health as poor or fair following the pandemic has increased. Before COVID-19, only 4.7% of Canadians said their mental health was poor or fair, compared to 11.7% in 2021.
How Has COVID Affected Stress Levels in Canada?
Following and during the pandemic, Canadians have experienced higher levels of stress than before. While 6% of Canadians reported never feeling stressed before the pandemic, only 4% said they never felt stressed after the pandemic.
Similarly, the level of people who feel stressed occasionally fell from 50% to 38%, while the number of people who feel stressed regularly almost doubled from 17% to 33%. The number of Canadians who feel stressed all the time more than tripled from 4% to 13%.
COVID and Suicidal Thoughts
The pandemic also saw an increase in the number of people who have thought about suicide. While 5% of people aged 18 to 34 thought about suicide in 2019, 8% thought about it in 2021. The thoughts of suicide rose from 2.2% to 3.7% in the 35-64 age group and fell slightly from 1% to 0.9% among the over 65-year-olds.
Young People and Mental Health
According to Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC), there are approximately 1.2 million children and young people affected by mental illness in Canada, and around 20% of young people will develop a mental illness before they turn 25. However, less than 20% of them receive the right treatment.
The YMHC further states that young Canadians aged between 15 and 24 are more likely to abuse substances and/or experience mental illness than people from any other age group, and 70% of mental health problems start in childhood or adolescence.
Canada has the third highest youth suicide rate in industrialised countries. Suicides among Canadian youth accounted for 29% of deaths in the 15 to 19 age group, 23% in 20-24-year-olds, and 19% among youths aged 10 to 14. Yet only around 75% of young people receive specialized treatment, and wait times for therapy and counselling are long in parts of Canada, for example, between six months and one year in Ontario.
Mental Health Among Mothers in Canada
According to a 2018-2019 survey on maternal mental health in Canada, 23% of mothers experience post-partum depression or anxiety disorder in Canada. The percentage is noticeably higher than average in Newfoundland and Labrador at 28%, in Nova Scotia at 31%, and lower than average in Saskatchewan at 16%.
These mental health concerns usually surface within the first year of giving birth and can last for months and sometimes years. 33% of mothers in Canada say they have felt concerned about their mental health at some point, and 85% of them have talked to someone about their concerns.
The most likely person the mothers will confide in is their partner, with 77% of mothers choosing to speak to their partner, followed by friends at 74%. While 43% will speak to their doctor, nurse, or midwife, only 24% will speak to a social worker, counsellor, or psychiatrist.
Barriers to Addressing Mental Health Concerns
Surveys have shown that Canadians are still reluctant to discuss their mental health. While one in five Canadians faces some level of mental health challenges, only one in three will seek help and treatment.
75% of Canadians said they would not want to disclose a mental health condition to a co-worker or an employer. The survey also revealed that the respondents were three times less likely to tell others about a mental health condition than about physical health conditions.
However, 76% of the respondents said they would be supportive of and comfortable with a colleague who disclosed they suffered from poor mental health or a mental illness.
Cost of Mental Health Conditions
It is estimated that the annual economic cost of mental health conditions in Canada is over $50 billion. This estimate includes healthcare costs, production losses, and reductions in quality of life. People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to be unemployed, with the rates being the highest among those with severe mental illnesses. It is estimated that the cost of disability leave due to mental illness is double the cost of leave due to a physical illness.
For employers, the cost is an estimated $20 billion per year. Untreated mental health issues lead to absences, reduced productivity, and an increase in claims among workers.
Psychological problems make up around 70% of disability costs among a range of workplaces.
Looking After Your Mental Health
More people now understand that we need to take care of our mental health just like we take care of our physical health. You can improve and maintain your mental health by, for example, knowing and accepting your strengths and weaknesses, setting yourself realistic goals, nurturing healthy self-esteem, and having healthy relationships with people who accept you as you are and support you.
The environment you live in can affect your mental well-being. You can contribute to creating a safe and healthy environment for yourself and others by, for example, getting to know your neighbours and taking part in local events, supporting people of different backgrounds and ages in your community, and finding ways to give back to your community.
While there has been some progress in making it easier to discuss mental health concerns, Canadians still feel there is a lot of stigma attached to it, and many are reluctant to talk about it. While 20% of Canadians in any given year will experience mental health concerns, only a third of those people will seek help or treatment.
Untreated mental illness costs the Canadian economy around $50 billion every year, but even more worryingly, it leads to almost 4,000 suicides each year. Mental illnesses begin to develop at a young age, so early intervention is important, yet only around 20% of young people receive appropriate treatment.
Having good or excellent mental health is important for our holistic well-being, and we need to take care of it similarly to taking care of our physical health. We can each also contribute to an environment where it is acceptable to talk about concerns over mental health.