Canadian economy losing billions due to insufficient mental health care: study

What is the price of overlooking mental health care in Canada? Billions in lost productivity

by Leo Almazora

The level of mental health care available to Canadians is not up to par and it’s costing the economy billions, according to a new study.

The report from the Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care reveals that depression and anxiety cost the Canadian economy at least $32.3 billion and $17.3 billion yearly, respectively, in decreased GDP resulting from lost productivity.

"A large proportion of working Canadians have unmet mental health care needs that prevent them from performing to their utmost and our report shows this has serious consequences for the Canadian economy," reports Louis Thériault, vice president of public policy at the Conference Board of Canada. "Improving treatment of mental illness among working Canadians would offer significant benefits for individuals, businesses, society and the economy," he added.

Poor mental health in society decreases productivity as sufferers feel unable to work. Almost 25% of Canadians who have a mental illness are rendered incapable of working due to their symptoms.

Slicing the demographics by job sector, workers in service industries feel that they have the most pressing need for mental health care. It was found that about 2.5 million service-industry employees feel the need for some sort of mental health care intervention. The industries that have the highest percentage of employees with unmet mental health care needs include:
  • Administrative support and waste management (44.4 %)
  • Accommodation and food services (43.8 %)
  • Professional, and scientific and technical services (42.9 %)
If employers can improve treatment of anxiety or depression among Canadian workers by facilitating their access to evidence-based benefits, programs, and supports, workplace productivity would experience a sizeable boost. The study estimates that improved access to treatment and support could result in up to 352,000 Canadians with depression/anxiety joining the workforce as fully functional employees each year until 2035. The Canadian economy would see a potential $32.3 billion lift per year from improved depression treatment, and $17.3 billion from anxiety treatment.

Related stories:
Fort Mac fire survivors face emotional challenges
Feds set to clash with provinces over healthcare overhaul