Prevalence of poor mental health is higher in the workplace than in general population
May 22, 2015, 09:00 ET
Higher impact from interventions needed
OTTAWA, May 22, 2015 /CNW/ - A Conference Board of Canada profile of mental health in Canada reveals that prevalence rates of mental health disorders are more than 60 per cent higher among working Canadians than the general population. Women, younger workers, and those employed in the services sector are particularly vulnerable and more likely to experience mental health issues.
"Mental health and mental illness have come out of the shadows and moved into Canadian living rooms and board rooms thanks to many awareness campaigns," said Carole Stonebridge, Senior Associate Researcher and co-author of the report. "However, in Canadian workplaces the stigma of mental illness persists and employers are often ill equipped to deal with employee mental health issues. Given the impact on working Canadians and costs for businesses, this is cause for concern."
The report, Healthy Brains at Work: The Footprint of Mental Health Conditions, provides a detailed look at the prevalence of mental illness in the employed population. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, around 4.2 million employed Canadians are living with a mental illness. Of these, approximately 279,000 have a mental or psychological disability, meaning that daily activities are limited as a result of the impairment.
- Although research campaigns and other activities in Canada have helped raise awareness and knowledge of mental health and mental illness, less is known if these efforts have had an impact, especially for working Canadians.
- The prevalence of mental health disorders is generally higher in the workplace, particularly in the services sector, than in the general population.
- Employers increasingly have access to effective resources and tools to help address mental health and illness in the workplace but the extent of their use by employers is relatively unknown.
Women are more likely than men to experience mental health issues. Just over 53 per cent of all employed Canadians with a mental illness are women. As well, a growing number of younger workers are living with a mental illness. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were the most likely to have experienced mood disorders (8 per cent) or major depressive episodes (7 per cent) within the past year.
Occupations with the highest prevalence of mental illness in a worker's lifetime were linked to the services sector. Industries such as information and culture, the accommodation and food services, and government services had the highest prevalence of mental illness, with nearly 20 per cent of the workforce having lived with either a mood disorder of generalized anxiety.
Of note, a 2013 Statistics Canada report revealed that the prevalence of self-reported major depressive episodes, post traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety among individuals in the Canadian Armed Forces was 2 to 3 times higher than the general population. In contrast, occupations linked to industries such as agriculture, forestry, and mining had the lowest prevalence of mental illness.
"This profile of mental health in Canada reveals that mental illness is more common in the workplace than previously imagined and the potential costs to employers can be significant," added Stonebridge.
Mental health issues are among the most common causes of absences in the workplace. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, mental illness accounts for about 30 per cent of all short-term and long-term disability claims in Canada and it is has been estimated that the value of these claims ranges from $15 to $33 billion annually. Similarly, a 2012 Conference Board of Canada report estimated that mental illness costs Canada $20 billion annually due to lost labour force participation due to absenteeism and presenteeism.
Although effective programs, resources and tools are available, little is known about the uptake by employers and employees and how access can be improved in industries and occupations where mental illness is more prevalent among working Canadians.
Healthy Brains At Work: The Footprint of Mental Health Conditions, is the first of a four part series that explores the importance of addressing mental health and mental illnesses in Canadian workplaces. It includes a detailed look at the prevalence of mental illness in the employed population and addresses the role employers have in creating the conditions for good mental health. Subsequent briefings will report on what employers are doing in Canada, understanding the gaps, and estimating potential impacts from a greater uptake of effective tools, programs, and benefits.
Preliminary findings from the second briefing in the Healthy Brains at Work research series will be presented at the Conference Board's Workplace Wellness and Mental Health Conference, June 2- 3, in Toronto.
This research was made possible through the financial support of Lundbeck Canada, Sun Life Financial, CIRA Medical Services, The Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian Depression Research Intervention Network, Mood Disorders Society of Canada and The Conference Board of Canada's Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC).
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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada
For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: [email protected]; or Juline Ranger, Associate Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail: [email protected]
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