The prevalence of mental health disorders in the Canadian workplace is more than 60 percent higher than the general population, says a Conference Board of Canada report called Healthy Brains at Work: The Footprint of Mental Health Conditions. The detailed report was released on May 22, 2015.
“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 Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that approximately 4.2 million employed Canadians live with a mental illness. In this group, approximately 279,000 people have a psychological or mental disability that limits their daily activities. Even though tools and resources on mental illness are available to employers, researchers do not know how much employers access them.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that 30 percent of all short-term and long-term disability claims in Canada are related to mental illness, and the cost ranges from $15 to $33 billion annually. A 2012 Conference Board of Canada report estimated that mental illness costs $20 billion annually through absenteeism and presenteeism (being at work while ill).
- Women are more likely than men to have mental health problems
- 53 percent of women in the workplace have mental health issues
- A growing number of young people between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to experience major depressive episodes (seven percent) or mood disorders (eight percent) within the past year
- The services sector in areas such as accommodation, food services, information, and culture had the highest prevalence of mental illness with nearly 20 percent of workers living with generalized anxiety or a mood disorder
- Depression, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder were two to three times higher in the Canadian Armed Forces than in the general population, according to a 2013 Statistics Canada report
- The lowest prevalence of mental illness were among occupations in industries such as mining, forestry, and agriculture
- Mental health issues are one of the most common causes of absence in the workplace
“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,” said Stonebridge. The report is the first in a four part series that investigates the importance of addressing mental health issues in Canadian workplaces.