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The Life and Economic Impact of Major Mental Illnesses in Canada: 2011 to 2041

Mental illness is a behavioural or psychological syndrome that significantly interferes with an individual’s thought processing abilities, social abilities, emotions and behaviour (Mental Disorders, WHO). Depending on the type of mental illness, the severity of the illness may vary from mild to severe and contribute to disability and health care service use. This study estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians are affected annually by mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, attention deficit/hyperactive disorders (ADHD), conduct disorders, oppositional defiant disorders (ODD), substance use disorders or dementia. Not only does mental illness impact individuals but it also places a significant impact on families, communities and the health care system. In 2011, this study conservatively estimated that the cost of mental illness was $42.3 billion in direct costs and $6.3 billion in indirect costs. Over the next 30 years, the life and economic consequences of mental illness are expected to be magnified due to the increase in the expected number of people living with mental illness as a result of the aging and growth of Canada’s population over the next 30 years. Within a generation, it is estimated that more than 8.9 million Canadians will be living in a mental illness.

The objective of this study was to estimate the health and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada, beginning in 2011 and annually over the next three decades. For the purposes of this study the major mental illnesses included: mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, ADHD, conduct disorders, ODD and cognitive impairment including dementia. Using RiskAnalytica’s Life at Risk simulation platform, measures of incidence, prevalence and mortality were simulated for the total Canadian population (ages 9 and over) to project the impact of major mental illnesses over a 30-year time horizon.

Our model estimated that there are over 6.7 million Canadians currently living with a mental illness, accounting for approximately 19.8% of the total population. By 2041, we forecast that there will be over 8.9 million people living with a mental illness in Canada (1.3 times the current estimate) or approximately 20.5% of the total population. In our analysis mental illness was estimated to cost the Canadian economy over $42.3 billion dollars in 2011 in direct costs. Of this, $21.3 billion are direct costs to the health care system1 including hospitalizations, physician visits, medication, and care and support staff.

By 2041, the number of Canadians living with mental illness is expected to reach over 8.9 million prevalent cases, or 20.5% of the total population. This will place a significant burden on Canada’s economy with the annual economic impact of over $48.6 billion dollars in 2011 and with the present values of the cumulative cost over the next 30 years exceeding $2.5 trillion.