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The burden of mental health and addiction in Ontario


Objective — Public Health Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences have collaborated to estimate the burden of illness attributable to mental disorder and addictions in Ontario.

Methods — Health-adjusted life years were used to estimate burden. It is conceptually similar to disability-adjusted life years that were used in the global burden of disease studies. Data sources for the mental illnesses and addictions used in our study included health administrative data for the province of Ontario, survey data from Statistics Canada and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, vital statistics data from the Ontario Office of the Registrar General, and US epidemiologic survey data.

Results — The 5 conditions with the highest burden are: major depression, bipolar affective disorder, alcohol use disorders (AUDs), social phobia, and schizophrenia. The burden of depression is double the next highest mental health condition (that is, bipolar affective disorder) and is more than the combined burden of the 4 most common cancers in Ontario. AUDs were the only disease group that had a substantial proportion of burden attributable to early death. The burden estimates for the other conditions were primarily due to disability.

Conclusions — The burden of these conditions in Ontario is as large or larger than other conditions, such as cancer and infectious diseases, owing in large part to the high prevalence, chronicity, and age of onset for most mental disorders and addiction problems. The findings serve as an important baseline for future evaluation of interventions intended to address the burden of mental health and addictions.



Ratnasingham S, Cairney J, Manson H, Rehm J, Lin E, Kurdyak P. Can J Psychiatry. 2013; 58(9):529-37.

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Contributing ICES Scientists