Depression now equal to high blood pressure as a top reason Canadians see physicians

According to Morneau Shepell survey, 63 per cent of physicians report the fastest increase in the number of their recent cases is from depression, anxiety disorders and stress-related issues

TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2016 /CNW/ - New research announced today by Morneau Shepell found that depression is now equal to high blood pressure as a top reason Canadians see physicians. Depression was the top-ranked condition by 24 per cent of physician respondents, equal to high blood pressure, which was the top-ranked condition by a different 24 per cent of physician respondents. The results of the national survey, which polled physicians, employees and employers across Canada, will be presented January 27 at the Company's 5th annual Employers Connect event.

Comparatively, musculoskeletal disorders were the top-ranked condition by 11 per cent of physician respondents. Furthermore, 63 per cent of physicians reported that depression, anxiety disorders or stress-related issues had the fastest increase in cases they had seen over the last two to three years.

The national survey, also found that a large majority (82 per cent) of employees who reported struggling with mental health issues and two thirds (67 per cent) of employees who reported struggling with stress symptoms said it impacts their work. Comparatively, only half (53 per cent) of employees who reported struggling with physical health issues said it impacts their work.

"Each year, we see an increase in employees seeking support for stress and anxiety – conditions that are attributable to everything from the uncertainty of an unstable economy to difficulties in a personal relationship," said Alan Torrie, President and CEO, Morneau Shepell. "These concerns often have a negative effect on workplace productivity. On the other hand, employers who offer mental wellness support often see a strong relationship between mental health and engagement at work."

Workplace engagement levels are strongly correlated with mental health issues

The survey found that more than two thirds (67 per cent) of highly engaged employees reported excellent or very good mental health, compared to less than half (35 per cent) who are not engaged. Additionally, workplace stress has been found to have a higher impact on engagement than personal stress. Nearly half (47 per cent) of employees who are not engaged reported extreme workplace stress but less than one in five (18 per cent) of employees who are not engaged reported extreme personal stress. 

Upon looking further into the reasons for stress at work, employees reported that the sources of workplace stress are due primarily to emotional or interpersonal issues (e.g., office culture, communication, conflict), as indicated by 60 per cent of employees. Comparatively, nearly half (43 per cent) of employees reported that job-related issues (e.g., deadlines) are the source of workplace stress and only 14 per cent of employees reported that physical work-related (e.g., lifting heavy objects) issues are the source of workplace stress.

Half (51 per cent) of managers surveyed believe they have employees with mental health issues

The survey also found that among managers, 37 per cent believe they have employees with significant stress symptoms, and 27 per cent of employees indicated that they have significant stress issues. Meanwhile, nearly one in four (22 per cent) of managers surveyed believe at least one of their employees has a substance abuse issue. Less than one in 10 (7 per cent) of employees reported substance abuse issues.

"It's clear that a large number of managers are seeing behaviours such as lowered productivity, increased absences, anxious behaviour or a disheveled appearance that would lead them to this belief," said Paula Allen, Vice President, Research and Integrative Solutions. "This shows how important it is for managers to know how to respond appropriately."

The stigma around mental health issues remains apparent in the workplace

Though conversations around mental health are continuing to evolve and become more commonplace, employees are not completely comfortable acknowledging the problems at work. Two thirds (66 per cent) of employees who took time off work for a mental health issue did not report it and, as such, the days were not recorded as an official absence. "Unrecorded absences affect employee morale, workplace productivity and the company's bottom line," said Adam Kelly, Vice President, Absence Management Solutions.

Almost one third (31 per cent) of employers said support for mental wellness in their organization has improved over the last two to three years, compared to 62 per cent who said it stayed the same.

"It is encouraging to see that Canadian employers are reducing stigma and increasing their focus on mental health issues," said President and CEO, Alan Torrie. "Support for workplace mental health is improving but there is still more to be done."

About the Survey

The purpose of the survey by Morneau Shepell, conducted in October 2015, was to provide insights into workplace mental health from the perspectives of employees, employers and physicians, with 1,223 respondents in total. The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.1 per cent for employees, +/- 9.8 per cent for employers and +/- 9.8 per cent for physicians; valid 19 times out of 20.

The Company is presenting the initial survey findings at Employers Connect, its 5th annual summit on workplace mental health being held in five cities across Canada on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

Media Invitation: Employers Connect, January 27, 2016

Media are invited to attend to be among the first to learn more about the new research findings, which are being presented at Morneau Shepell's 5th annual Employers Connect seminars in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montréal and Halifax. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Heather MacDonald at or 647.725.2520 ext. 207.  

To join the conversation online, tweet us @Morneau_Shepell #EmployersConnect #MentalHealth

About Morneau Shepell Inc.
Morneau Shepell is the only human resources consulting and technology company that takes an integrative approach to employee assistance, health, benefits and retirement needs. The Company is the leading provider of employee and family assistance programs, as well as the largest administrator of retirement and benefits plans and the largest provider of integrated absence management solutions in Canada. Through health and productivity, administrative, and retirement solutions, Morneau Shepell helps clients reduce costs, increase employee productivity and improve their competitive position. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 20,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations in North America. With almost 4,000 employees in offices across North America, Morneau Shepell provides services to organizations across Canada, in the United States, and around the globe. Morneau Shepell is a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit

SOURCE Morneau Shepell Inc.

For further information: Heather MacDonald, Kaiser Lachance Communications, 647.725.2520 ext. 207,; Nathan Gibson, Morneau Shepell, 416-390-2641,


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