Prevalence of mental disorders and suicidality in Canadian provinces

What you need to know

Canadian researchers examined the prevalence of mental disorders and addictions among provinces in Canada. They compared the provincial past-year prevalence of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorders, and suicidality. The results show that there were significant differences in the prevalence of mental disorders and suicidality in Canadian provinces.

 

This Research Snapshot looks at the article, "Prevalence of Mental Disorders and Suicidality in Canadian Provinces,” published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019. Read it below or download the PDF

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about? 

Mental disorders, including substance use disorders, affect about one in five Canadians each year.  In response to this, the Canadian federal government declared an investment of 5 billion dollars into the mental health-care system over the next 10 years.

The challenge now is how to distribute this funding fairly across the provinces. To do so, an analysis of the need for mental health care across Canada was needed but few studies look at this issue.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers analyzed data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey. This survey includes a representative sample of Canadians over the age of 15 years in each province. They looked at sociodemographic factors (such as age, sex, income, and marital status) and past-year prevalence of mental disorders and suicidality. A total of 25,113 participants were included in the study.

What did the researchers find?

There were significant differences in past-year prevalence of mental disorders and suicidality. Manitoba had the highest prevalence of any mental disorder (14%). It also had the highest prevalence of major depressive disorder (7%) and alcohol use disorder (4%) . Nova Scotia had the highest prevalence of substance use disorders (2.9%). Quebec and Prince Edward Island had the lowest prevalence of any mental disorder (8.5% and 7.7%, respectively). British Columbia and Ontario had the highest prevalence of suicidal planning (1.4% and 1.3%, respectively), and Ontario had the highest prevalence of suicide attempts (0.7%). Differences in provincial prevalence were not related to the sociodemographic factors included in the study.

Limitations and next steps

Since this study used the Canadian Community Health Survey, there are some limitations to the survey. It did not include specific groups because they represent less than 3% of the population. This could mean that these groups may have different prevalence of mental disorders and suicide rates compared to the general population.

The survey also didn’t include people living in the three Canadian territories. This can underestimate the true prevalence of mental disorders and suicides across Canada. Lastly, the data were more than seven years old and some provinces have already undergone extensive restructuring of their entire health system that might impact the prevalence of mental disorders and suicides. The next step will be to investigate these differences and how they impact the need for mental health services.

About the researchers

Joshua Palay,1 Tamara L. Taillieu,2 Tracie O. Afifi,1,2 Sarah Turner,1 James M. Bolton,1 Murray W. Enns,1 Mark Smith,3 Alain Lesage,4,5 Jeffrey A. Bakal,6 Brian Rush,7,8 Carol E. Adair,9,10 Simone N. Vigod,11,12 Steven Clelland,13 Katherine Rittenbach,14,15 Paul Kurdyak,7,16 Jitender Sareen1

  1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  2. Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  3. Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  4. Department of Psychiatry, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec
  5. Research Centre, Montreal University Mental Health Institute, Montreal, Quebec
  6. Patient Health Outcomes Research and Clinical Effectiveness Unit, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  7. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario
  8. Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
  9. Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta
  10. Department of Psychiatry, Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta
  11. Department of Psychiatry, Women’s College Hospital and Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario
  12. Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
  13. Knowledge, Performance and Integrated Planning, Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta
  14. Addiction & Mental Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta
  15. Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  16. ICES, Toronto, Ontario

Keywords

Mental health services, prevalence, epidemiology, affective disorders, substance use disorders, suicide, anxiety

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “Prevalence of Mental Disorders and Suicidality in Canadian Provinces,” published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019. This summary was written by Maryan Warsame. DOI 10.1177/0706743719878987