New stats on mental health emerge

(Graphic by Lena Yang)
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

It has been nine years since Statistics Canada has evaluated mental health and wellness on a national level.

Now, new information has surfaced revealing just how many Canadians are afflicted with mental health and substance abuse disorders. These findings show an estimated 2.8 million Canadians have reported symptoms in the last year.

“That’s one in ten,” said Teresa Janz of Statistics Canada and the co-author of the study.

“The concept of the survey was partly based on a selection of mental disorders from the World Health Organization (WHO), to be comparable at a national level,” she said.

In 2013, over 25,000 Canadians aged 15 and older were surveyed across the country.

Six disorders were selected as part of the survey, as suggested by the WHO: depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse or dependence, cannabis abuse or dependence and “other drug” abuse.

“We really wanted to get a picture of the situation in Canada,” Janz explained.

Results showed that 4.7 per cent of the population experiences symptoms of depressive episodes, while 1.5 per cent met the criteria for bipolar disorder in the last 12 months.

Generalized anxiety disorder was also included in the survey for the first time, finding that 2.6 per cent of Canadians are living with symptoms.

Finally, 4.4 per cent of Canadians met the criteria for substance use disorder, showing 3.2 per cent dependant on alcohol and 1.3 per cent dependant on cannabis.

“Another big finding was that females have higher rates of mood disorders, and males have higher rates of substance abuse disorders,” Janz added.

“This is a pattern that’s common, and it wasn’t surprising.”

Scott Patten, a professor in the department of community health science and psychiatry at the University of Calgary weighed in on the matter, explaining why certain mental health disorders are more common in one sex.

“This may have something to do with the ways in which these disorders are being defined,” he explained. “When you have depression affecting men they react in different ways [and] may manifest that differently than women do.”

“For example, it does not refer to depressed mood, whereas irritability and anger issues might occur more often in men.”

Another interesting consensus in the study showed a large difference in certain age groups.

12 per cent of youth aged 15-24 met the criteria for substance abuse disorder. That compares with 1.9 per cent of those aged 45 and up.

“These rates are six times higher for youth compared to those 45 and older,” Janz revealed. “And it’s also four times higher for youth to report symptoms consistent with mood disorders.”

“The age difference is notable,” she concluded.

Patten explained that an increased prevalence of mental health issues in youth might be because adults have time to outgrow or seek long-term help for their conditions.

“As people get older they become perhaps less impulsive in their behavioral patterns,” he said. “For whatever reason they lose interest or the compulsive use that goes along with these disorders.”

Patten also suggested that there may be a larger percentage of youth dealing with substance abuse because the demographic is more susceptible to “youth culture,” dealing with binge drinking and drug experimentation.

“The culture that favours [this] is thought to contribute to problems with abuse and substances,” he elaborated. “However, people who merely experiment with these drugs would not be classified as dependent or drug-abusing by the survey.”

Overall, what this new study shows is an updated look at a seemingly understudied cause.

“This information is useful at a higher level … it sort of provides a national snapshot of how things are going in terms of mental health in Canada,” Patten explained. “It’s very valuable information.”

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