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Mental illness costs Canadian economy $50 billion per year

January 25, 2013

Last week, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) released a new report Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada. This report is intended to fill a gap in pan–Canadian information about the number of people living with mental health conditions and illnesses, and associated costs both current and projected.

It also provides examples for how recommendations in Canada’s new mental health strategy can be implemented to realize cost savings to the health, social and income systems in Canada.

According to the MHCC, the study, which was carried out in 2011 by RiskAnalytica, drew on Canadian and international literature in developing a model that can provide a profile of the prevalence and the cost of mental health and how this changes over time.

Findings revealed that:

  • More than 6.7 million people in Canada were living with a mental illness in 2011. This translates into one in five people in Canada who are living with a mental illness in any given year. In comparison, there are 2 million people Canadians with Type 2 diabetes and 1.4 million people with heart disease.
  • Of 6.7 million people, more than 1 million were children and adolescents between the ages of nine and 19 years of age.
  • With nearly 4 million people living with either a mood or an anxiety disorder in 2011, these are the most common mental illnesses in Canada. By 2041 it is projected that this will increase to nearly 4.9 million people.
  • By age 40, nearly 50 per cent of the population will have or have had a mental illness. If people reach 90 years of age and older, about 65 per cent of men and almost 70 per cent of women will have or have had a mental illness in their lifetime.

In terms of mental health and the workplace, the study revealed that:

  • About 21.4 per cent of the working-age population (20-64 years of age) was living with a mental health problem or illness in 2011 with prevalence peaking at 20-29 years of age among both males and females. This is at the time when young people are about to enter post-secondary educa¬tion or the workforce, and often before they have completed their education.
  • In 2011, among working aged males, the peak prevalence was 28.9 per cent at 20-29 years of age; among the same age cohort for females, the prevalence was 28.1 per cent.
  • Mental health conditions and illnesses cost the Canadian economy at least $50 billion per year. This represents 2.8 per cent of Canada’s 2011 gross domestic product.
  • In 2011, about $42.3 billion were spent in Canada providing treatment, care and support services for people with mental health problems and illnesses.
  • The cumulative cost of providing treatment, care, and support services over the next 30 years in Canada is expected to exceed $2.5 trillion in current dollars.

This paper suggests that implementing some of the strategies found in the MHCC’s Mental Health Strategy, “Changing Directions, Changing Lives”, will reduce these costs. Some of the interventions that have proven successful in restraining cost growth include a supportive housing element to hospital discharge, use of an ACT team, and early intervention programs.

You can access the full report on the Mental Health Commission of Canada website.

This report was released prior to the launch of the new voluntary National Standard of Canada titled, “Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation”. See our other article on the new Standard, availablehere.

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