Canadians more likely to seek help for mental wellness: study

Elianna Lev
·3-min read
Anonymous photo of two women during group psychotherapy for people with depression
Anonymous photo of two women during group psychotherapy for people with depression

A newly released report that looks at mental wellness across the world shows that Canada is coping better than other countries.

The Mental State of the World 2020 report is part of an ongoing study which aims to understand the drivers of how society is changing in regards to mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing was measured on the spectrums of Mood & Outlook, Drive & Motivation, our Social Self, our Core and Complex Cognition and our Mind-body Connection, rather than just happiness and life satisfaction.

The open data project will be published as a yearly report to provide a descriptive output of what each year looked like.

“We can use this data and insight to make real time decisions, from policy to intervention, in terms of where to prioritize and what levers may be to look at better population health,” says Tara Thiagarajan, founder and chief scientist at Sapien Labs, which conducted the research.

The data out of Canada showed many similarities to the U.S., in comparison to other countries.

“Canada was not an anomaly,” Thiagarajan says “They’re pretty stable and doing pretty well in most dimensions, based on other countries we looked at.”

The other countries included in the report were the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The report found that Canadians who took part in the study rated themselves lower on emotional control, drive and motivation and ability to learn, compared to the U.S.

They also seemed to experience more physical health issues and pain. Thiagarajan explains that there’s lots of factors that can drive these results that don't necessarily reflect the entire country. The Canadians who took part in the study tended to not be college educated, and thus ranking physical pain as an issue could be related to the physical work they do.

“It could be a difference in demographics of people who took this assessment,” she says.

The report also found that Canada has the highest number of people with clinical issues who are actually seeking professional help — about 65 per cent, compared to 48 per cent the U.S. and 15 per cent in India.

When it came to the mental wellbeing of other countries, the U.K. and South Africa struggled the most.

Countries by functional dimensions of mental wellbeing (Supplied)
Countries by functional dimensions of mental wellbeing (Supplied)

In regards to age demographics, it found that young adults between the ages of 18-24 scored lowest compared to older adults, 65 and over. It also found 44 per cent of young adult respondents reported clinical-level risk — compared to 6 per cent of 65 and over.

“In particular, young adults had significantly compromised self-worth and confidence as well as focus and concentration and struggled with feelings of sadness and distress and unwanted and obsessive thoughts,” the study notes.

Those who identify as non binary or third gendered were at the highest risk for suicide, reporting substantial rates of suicidal thoughts and intentions compared to other groups.

The research was launched before COVID-19, though it included several questions related to the pandemic just as the lockdown started. Its purpose was to understand how life experience interacts with brain physiology and how that, in turn, informs cognitive and mental health outcomes.

“The idea was to create this tool that spans all the symptoms of disorders but also includes the positive ends of the spectrum for all mental functions,” says Thiagarajan.