29% of Canadians face mental health issues

Economic woes and pandemic effects drive a sharp rise in mental health challenges

29% of Canadians face mental health issues

The Canadian Institute for Health Information recently highlighted a concerning trend in Canadian adults' mental health, with a significant portion struggling with mental health issues amid economic challenges and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This revelation comes from an international survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, which included 10 high-income countries, as reported by The Canadian Press.

The survey revealed that 29 percent of Canadians aged 18 and older reported suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue in 2023. This marks a noticeable increase from 20 percent in 2016.

The survey sheds light on the economic stressors contributing to this uptick in mental health issues, with a specific focus on worries about housing, food security, and having a safe, clean place to sleep.

In Canada, 17 percent of respondents were concerned about affording their rent or mortgage, a figure slightly higher than the 10-country average of 14 percent. Concerns about food security and safe housing also surpassed the average, highlighting the role of economic factors in exacerbating mental health problems.

Sarah Kennell, from the Canadian Mental Health Association, refers to the current situation as a “syndemic,” where various crises, including the pandemic and rising living costs, intersect with mental health.

The survey also found that 15 percent of Canadians said costs prevented them from accessing mental health services, a situation more dire than the 10-country average of 11 percent, indicating the financial barriers to seeking help.

This financial obstacle is further emphasized by the fact that 29 percent of Canadians cited the inability to pay as the main reason for not accessing mental health services such as counselling, psychotherapy, or other treatments.

The disparity between Canada and other countries in the survey suggests a need for Canada to reevaluate its approach to mental health care accessibility.

Countries in Scandinavia and Europe, known for their holistic health care approaches that include mental health services as part of the public package, serve as potential models for Canada to make mental health care more accessible and reduce the burden of cost on individuals.

This survey, which interviewed 4,820 people in Canada between March and August 2023, underlines the urgent need for policy and system changes to address the mental health crisis and its ties to economic factors.

With mental health services often falling outside of Canada's public universal health care system, many are left to pay out of pocket or rely on limited insurance benefits, creating significant barriers to care.

This report calls for a closer look at how other high-income countries manage to provide more accessible mental health services and suggests a path forward for Canada to ensure its residents can receive the support they need without financial strain.